Pakistan mulling Ofcom-like central communication regulator

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan government is going to set up a central communication regulatory body dealing with various print and electronic media outlets operating in the country.

The British Ofcom-like central watchdog will be established after merging the two regulators — Press Council of Pakistan (PCP) and Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) — monitoring newspapers and TV channels respectively.

Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry chaired a high-level body at the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting on Wednesday and after reviewing the role of PEMRA and PCP, announced that all media regulatory authorities will be merged into one top body called the Pakistan Media Regulatory Authority.

While talking to mediapersons after the meeting, he said that the government in consultation with media representative bodies and broadcasters as well as newspaper owners and editors has decided to do away with PEMRA and PCP and constitute a new body “which will not only look after electronic media, but also print and cybermedia (social media)”.

At present Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) is monitoring the social and web media, however, Chaudhry didn’t indicate that the government had any plan to merge PTA too in that central media regulatory body.

“There should be one regulatory authority to look at all mediums, and the same laws and censors should apply across the board,” Fawad further said.

According to him, the proposal would also save the government’s resources and all authorities will be merged into one body of professionals, which will also include media representatives.

He also referred to the Supreme Court’s remarks during a case earlier in the day regarding media code of ethics that would also be taken into consideration.

“In the coming days, you will see major changes in the information ministry, regulatory bodies, and Pakistan Television (PTV).”

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTA) after coming to power in the wake of July 25 elections introduced reforms in the state-run TV and now one can see opposition members of the Parliament sitting side by side with the government functionaries and criticising its policies. On the contrary and as per practice, opposition parties are seldom given coverage by the state media in Pakistan.

Last week, the information minister had announced that the PTI-led government had lifted political censorship on state-run news organisations. Later, in a statement posted on Twitter, the minister said that both PTV and Radio Pakistan would now enjoy complete editorial independence over the content they produce.

Chaudhry also spoke about a media cell that was allegedly working under the supervision of former Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif’s daughter Maryam Nawaz and beyond the jurisdiction of the Information Ministry.

PML-N government, he said was controlling newspapers and TV channels with the help of advertisements and the current government has done away with all such media-controlling practices, he said.


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