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Govt to establish special media tribunals to settle cases of media organisations: Firdous Ashiq

18 September, 2019

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ISLAMABAD: Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Information and Broadcasting Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan Tuesday said the government has decided to establish special media tribunals to settle cases of media organisations, workers, owners and citizens.

Sharing the decisions of federal cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Imran Khan, Dr Firdous told a press conference that the government will get a law passed from the parliament in this regard. After the establishment of tribunals, she said, all media-related cases will be transferred to them, which will be bound to decide the matter within 90 days of receiving the complaints. The decision to the effect has been taken as part of media rules and regulations the government intends to introduce in Pakistan like the best practices being followed in other democratic countries, she added.

Dr Firdous said media’s role is important for any state and as per the Supreme Court’s decision, it is the fourth pillar of state. Setting up the tribunals will make the media more responsible, she added.

She said at present, the media organisations, owners, workers and civil society move their media-related complaints to the judiciary to get relief. The decision will help truth and supremacy of law to prevail, besides encouraging the process of self-accountability in the media.

Dr Firdous said the tribunals will hear specific media complaints and any organisation or person having any complaint against the media can approach them. The tribunals, she said, will ensure quick justice and collective and enforcement measures as per policy of the government to effectively address media-related complaints based on the mechanism of present norms and ethics.

Dr Firdous said the cabinet expressed its concern over the fact that some elements by taking advantage of freedom of expression are levelling baseless allegations against the personal lives of government personalities, including the prime minister and federal ministers. Prime Minister Imran Khan, she said, is of the opinion that positive criticism is vital for development of a society and better governance but some elements are using freedom of expression for personal objectives. Some elements are intentionally spreading baseless rumours to fulfill their nefarious designs and a section of media is being used as a tool, she said, adding that it is being done to create mistrust between the people and the government.

Talking about the government’s reformative agenda, especially its achievements in the economic sector, Dr Firdous said the people’s trust is imperative for the success of its initiatives. She said the government has decided to issue health cards to 5,000 transgender persons and for the purpose their data was being collected from the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA). Health cards were already being issued to the disabled persons, she added. Dr Firdous said extension of one-time work visa for the Chinese citizens has also been approved to ensure unhindered work on the development projects being completed with the Chinese cooperation in Pakistan. She said the Ministry of Information will set up an information helpline at all major hospitals for the general public, especially the elderly.

The cabinet, she said, gave approval for establishing old age homes in the name of ‘Maskan’ at district level under the Ehsaas Programme for the elderly people, who are left by their families at the mercy of circumstances. First ‘Maskan’, she said, has already been established in Sialkot as a pilot project, which will be replicated in rest of the country soon. The prime minister has directed the ministry concerned to prepare priorities in this regard, she said. She said the prime minister also issued directives for strictly observing the deadline for filling vacant posts in various government departments.

The special assistant said the cabinet approved transfer of erstwhile FATA’s zakat funds of over Rs 299 million to the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government.

She said 244 rehabilitation centres will be established for the treatment of drug addicts across the country. At present, only three such centres are functional, she said, adding that prevention from drugs will be made part of the educational syllabus to save future generations from being addicted to the menace. Dr Firdous said the cabinet has approved abolishing premium being taken from the customers on purchase of new cars.

Later replying to media persons’ questions, she said all the stakeholders will be taken on board regarding the media tribunals, which will work under the supervision of superior judiciary. The tribunals will be free from the government control or influence as the government functionaries will also be accountable to them, she added.

To a query, Dr Firdous said an impression of some deal with a jailed personality is being given in the wake of some meetings with him. The rumour mills should stop working as no deal will be done. Anyone convicted under the National Accountability Bureau law can come out of jail by returning the looted public money under plea bargain, she added.

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