November 3rd, 2020
By Rehan Piracha
The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Information Department has removed 31 provincial, regional and local newspapers from the media list for not fulfilling the criteria under the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Advertisement Policy 2018. However, journalists’ representatives said the delisted newspapers were mostly dummy publications with no journalistic staff employed whatsoever.
The Information Department has said that the delisted newspapers could be restored on the media list after the publishers meet the minimum criteria. After removal from the media list, officials said, government advertisements would not be issued to such newspapers. These newspapers so far received government advertisements in violation of the basic criteria framed under the policy. Information ministry officials said that with the exclusion of 31 dummy newspapers from the media list, there were 91 newspapers on the media list now. Six of the delisted newspapers are from Peshawar, three from Abbottabad, three from Swat, seven from Islamabad, three from Dera Ismail Khan, and one each from Haripur, Karachi, and Karak.
‘No journalists employed in dummy papers’
Speaking to Voicepk.net, Fida Khattak, President of Khyber Union of Journalists, said the delisted newspapers were dummy publications, adding that most had neither office premises nor journalists employed as staff members. He said the newspapers were delisted because of not meeting the criteria of office premises and regular publication under the law. Khattak said the action was not geared against any newspapers or periodicals critical of the government.
However, Fida Khattak expressed reservations on the allocation of government advertisements to newspapers in the province. He said close to 80 percent advertisements by the government to just two daily newspapers, adding that his union has raised this disparity with government officials and ministers.
Syed Bukhar Shah, President of Peshawar Press, said the information ministry has given time to the owners of these newspapers to fulfill criteria under Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Advertisement Policy. He said the ministry was justified in their action against the dummy publications and there was no instance of newspapers critical of the government being targeted on this pretext. He said the owners of the delisted have assured journalistic bodies of hiring media workers and fulfilling requirements under the law.
The ministry officials said that the government did not cancel the newspaper’s declaration and had given these newspapers a chance to meet the criteria.
According to official documents, 14 newspapers had not renewed their annual registration, 16 of them didn’t provide their published copies to the information department on a daily basis while 15 of them were irregular in providing their published copies to the department.
Section 6(III) of the KP Advertisement policy states: “The newspapers should be published regularly and it should submit its copies regularly to the Directorate General of Information and Public Relations KP or Regional Information Officer (RIO) concerned, as the case may be.”
It says that any newspaper found irregular will automatically stand disqualified from the provincial media list. According to KP govt spokesperson Kamran Bangash, delisting the newspapers was the maximum the provincial government could do.