Talking to the digital broadcasters today, Information Minister said the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) was a rich organisation, but unfortunately it didn’t spend a penny on journalists’ training, research, and digital media since its formation.
Fawad Chaudhry said there were currently seven laws regulating media in Pakistan. “Social media is dealt by the PTA, press is managed by the Press Council, the electronic media is dealt by Pemra, labour regulations are looked after by Implementation Tribunal for Newspapers Employees (ITNE), while the Audit Bureau of Circulation (ABC) deals with newspaper registrations.”
He reiterated that all the laws were being abolished to replace them with the one authority — the PMDA.
He said that currently, organisations obtain a stay order from court in response to a notice and fine imposed by Pemra. He said the censor board will also be dissolved and a new entity – ‘Board of Films Censor’ – will be established in its place.
The minister said a media commission had also been created which will have four people each from the government and media bodies and it will be headed by a chairman. “The commission will have the powers to appoint people in the proposed complaint committee and media tribunal.”
He said the media tribunal would be able to entertain complaints from media workers, adding that “many owners are opposing formation of media tribunals, but the government will go ahead with its plan.”
Chaudhry said a new wing of development had been created in the PMDA aimed at capacity building of journalists as “continuous education” of news providers was the need of the hour.
He said verdicts by media tribunal would be final and could only be challenged in the Supreme Court of Pakistan.
The information minister insisted that digital media would actually define the media landscape of Pakistan in the future. “However, it doesn’t mean that formal media will vanish but the mediums of communication will just change. Content is here to stay,” he added.
What is PMDA?
The PMDA is a proposed regulatory body that can cater to the professional and business requirements of all forms of media and their users, according to a government proposal, and is meant to replace the current outdated regulatory environment and fragmented media regulation by multiple bodies.
This means that according to the proposal, the PMDA solely will be responsible for the regulation of print, broadcast, and digital media in Pakistan.
Under an ordinance drafted for the establishment of the authority, all previous laws pertaining to media regulation, control or indirect control will likely be abolished and fresh legislation will be enacted, giving legal cover to the PMDA and its functions.
No other body but the Supreme Court will have the jurisdiction to question the legality of “anything done or any decision taken under the [PMDA] ordinance”, the proposal states. In addition to its regulatory function, the authority will determine media employees’ wages and resolve wage disputes.