Probe ordered into proposed ‘law to control print media’

The information ministry took punitive action against officials concerned on Monday in connection with a draconian law, relegating two senior officials of its Internal Publicity Wing as officers on special duty (OSD) and suspending another for tarnishing its image.

Also on Monday, the Council of Pakistan Newspaper Editors (CPNE) asserted that the print media fully abides by journalistic ethics.

The development came a day after national media reported that the PML-N government had prepared a draft law ostensibly to control print media and impose more restrictions on the freedom of the press.

Taking action on the issue, the Ministry of Information, Broadcasting and Internal Heritage issued an order on Monday clarifying that neither the secretary nor the minister of state for information was aware of “any such proposal”.

“The undersigned spoke with the Press Council of Pakistan (PCP) chairman Dr Salahud Din Mengal, who stated that the subject case is an agenda item for a meeting of the PCP to be held today. He has been advised to drop this agenda item forthwith,” read the order issued by the secretary information.

The situation caused embarrassment to the ministry by creating an impression that the ministry was “trying to tighten the existing regulatory framework for the print media”, the order continued. “This is absolutely contradictory to the actual commitment of the government, which is totally committed to upholding the freedoms laid down in the Constitution.”

The ministry, through its order, appointed the DG, External Publicity Wing as Inquiry Officer to conduct a fact-finding probe into the matter and submit a report in three days.

Terming the incident serious, the order stated: “Nasir Jamal and Tahir Hasan, [the DG and director IP, respectively] are hereby made OSD with immediate effect and till further orders. Assistant Director Saad Ullah Mahar is suspended with immediate effect and till further orders.”

It, however, explained that further action would be initiated after the submission of the fact-finding report.

According to a CPNE press release, President of the Council of Pakistan Newspaper Editors (CPNE), Zia Shahid and Secretary-General Aijazul Haq thanked Prime Minister Shahid Khakan Abbasi and Minister of State for Information, Broadcasting and National Heritage Maryum Aurangzeb for clarifying the government’s position on the proposed draconian ordinance for the print media.

The president and secretary-general of CPNE said that the print media fully abides by journalistic ethical code and hailed condemnation statements issued by All Pakistan Newspapers Society (APNS), Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) and Karachi Press Club (KPC) in this regard.

They urged the minister of state to ensure that those found guilty of floating the draconian proposal should be severely punished in accordance with the law to thwart future bids to create a rift between the government and print media like Dawn Leaks in future.

“It is a good gesture to suspend officials and initiate a fact-finding inquiry into the matter and to fix responsibility on the individuals concerned, but we hope that the inquiry will be conducted impartially and the culprits will be brought to book,” they said.

The Express Tribune

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