Three back to back meetings were chaired by Mr. Ashtar Ausaf Attorney General for Pakistan starting from Friday and continued through Saturday and Sunday (27th to 29th May 2016) to review the media laws to ensure freedom of speech and press as enshrined in Article 19 and 19 A of the constitution in the light of the directions of the supreme court of Pakistan.

Attorney General observed that there are over 300 cases which are pending in different courts of the country related to media. He emphasized that mechanism will be set place to expeditiously pursue these cases so that speedy justice could be imparted to litigants. He said that government places welfare and wellbeing of the journalists and media persons on top priority. He said that although Implementation Tribunal for Newspaper Employees (ITNE) exists but it does not cover the media persons of the electronic media. He said that necessary changes are being considered to enlarge the scope of the ITNE to ensure that media persons of electronic media could also seek remedy of their employment related issues from the ITNE. He said that all media laws will be reviewed to provide enabling conditions for the media persons and media outfits to discharge their professional obligations with ease and comfort.

He appreciated the role of media persons and media outfits as a watchdog of the society and government and bringing incidents of noncompliance of rules and regulations in the governance dispensation which he said is necessary to strengthen the democracy in the country.

He also hoped that media persons being the most enlightened part of the society are fully committed to discharge their professional obligations within ambit of the existing laws of the Country and law, rules and code of conduct of PEMRA. He said that Media is performing an important and vital role in national building by providing quality information, education and entertainment to the people of Pakistan.

He however noted that that there are a few news and current affairs programs in the electronic media wherein derogatory and insulting language and remarks are used by the anchor persons and participants which he said is an alarming trend and needs to be discouraged. He however welcomed healthy and constructive criticism which he said is helpful to the society and to the government.

He also proposed that each media outfit may considered appointment of an in house media content manager who should be made responsible for editorial supervision to ensure that content of the media is in accordance with the journalists norms and precedents and are also in accordance with existing laws of the country. He said that the PEMRA’s role as regulator is to ensure and promote healthy growth of the media in the country. He said steps are being considered to ensure that PEMRA is not only made independent in true spirit but it should also look like free and independent in discharge of its mandated functions. He said all necessary steps will be taken to strengthen PEMRA’s ability to promote healthy and constructive growth of the media in the country which may include reviewing PEMRA’s existing laws, rules, regulations and code of conduct but also to strengthen it administratively to ensure that it is manned by quality human resource and is equipped with state of the art technology tools to regulate the electronic media strictly in accordance with relevant legal framework.

The attorney general said that possibility of setting in place a legal cell is being considered to provide legal aid to those persons who are felt aggrieved by the libel slander or defamation and to effectively pursue the media related cases which are pending in different courts of the country.