Govt benefiting from criticism by free media: Durrani

Minister for Information and Broadcasting Senator Muhammad Ali Durrani on Saturday said the incumbent government is benefiting from the criticism by free media in ensuring transparency and good governance.
The minister, flanked by minister of state for information and broadcasting senator Tariq Azeem Khan, was talking to a media delegation comprising Christopher Warren, President, International Federation of Journalists (IFP), and Chris Morley, President, National Union of Journalists (NUJ), United Kingdom, President PFUJ Pervaiz Shaukat, Secretary Afzal Butt, Najam-us-Saqib, Shehryar Khan, Tahir Khattak, Sunanda Deshapriya, Bharat Bhaushan and Tahir Rathore.
PIO Chaudhry Rasheed, Mansoor Suhail and Syed Fayyaz Hussain were also present.
Durrani said the media was enjoying unparalleled freedom and its active role was assisting the government in ensuring good governance.
“The criticism by media either specify inefficient elements or assist the government correct any fumble. On the other side, the vibrant media is also helping build social sectors, which is a positive indicator,” the minister said. To a question regarding information laws, Durrani said that under the freedom of information law, any journalist could access the required information.
He said besides TV channels, Pakistan Electronic Media Regularity Authority (PEMRA) had also released numerous FM radio licenses in regional as well as national language. Besides entertainment programmes, he said, the community-based radio channels also transmit news in national and local languages.
About Wage Board Award, Durrani said the government was working vigorously to settle the issue on priority.
“Implementation of Wage Award tops priorities of the information ministry. We have taken all parties concerned onboard and negotiations are in the final stage. I am sure that the matter would be resolved within days or weeks,” he said and added that all options were open to the government. “We have alternate options to resolve the issue. In my opinion, all concerned parties also want an amicable solution and hopefully the matter would be resolved through dialogue,” he said and added that government was ready to facilitate the owners of the media organisations if the matter was resolved.
To another question, the Senator said the government was working to set up more media offices to facilitate journalists so as they could access information in emergency situations. On the movement of journalists in the tribal areas, the Minister said the government was ready to provide protection to journalists if they want to travel to tribal areas.
Quoting the example of veteran journalist Suhail Qalandar, editor of Daily Express Peshawar, who was abducted by some tribal outlaws and was recently recovered – thanks to vigorous efforts by government officials, Durrani said the government’s commitment towards press freedom could be reflected by the fact that President Musharraf, Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz and Governor NWFP Ali Muhammad Jan Orakzai had taken keen interest in recovery of the journalist.
Durrani said the government was developing infrastructure in the tribal areas to ensure its writ in these remote and far-flung areas.
Since long, he said, these areas have their own customs and local jirgas have looked after their affairs. He said President Pervez Musharraf has launched massive development works in these remote areas. The government is dealing with the issues of tribal areas as per the local customs, he added.
On public sector advertisements to media organisations, he said the information ministry was only a link between the media and the public sector departments.
“The concerned departments have the prerogative to name newspapers for release of advertisements. The respective department provides a list of required newspapers to the ministry to release advertisements and the Ministry is a bridge between the two,” said Senator Tariq Azeem and added that the ministry allocates 25 percent advertisements to regional press as per policy to strengthen regional press

Copyright APP (Associated Press of Pakistan), 2007