April 25th, 2022
By Rehan Piracha
The media Joint Action Committee will be soon submitting a consensus definition of fake news to the federal government, Nasir Zaidi, secretary-general of the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ), told Voicepk.net on Monday.
Zaidi said the joint action committee had not agreed to any new legislation relating to fake news in the country, clarifying a news report that a delegation of the media committee and Federal Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb had decided to enact legislation for curbing the fake news in a meeting in Islamabad on April 23.
The JAC comprises the Pakistan Broadcasters Association (PBA), All Pakistan Newspapers Society (APNS), Council of Pakistan Newspaper Editors (CPNE), Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ), and Association of Electronic Media Editors and News Directors (AEMEND).
According to the Associated Press of Pakistan, the meeting also decided to add a provision in the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) law to end fake news which had not only harmed the national interest but also had an adverse impact on the national cohesion and unity.
“In the meeting, the JAC agreed to submit a consensus definition of fake news after getting suggestions from all media stakeholders,” Zaidi told Voicepk.net. The consensus definition would be used by the PEMRA council of complaints while handling viewers’ complaints relating to disinformation and misinformation on broadcast channels, he said, adding that the council of complaints comes under the existing PEMRA law.
Complaints against journalists to be dealt with by existing forums: Zaidi
Zaidi said any complaints against journalists for violation of media ethics and code of conduct would be dealt with under existing forums of the Press Council of Pakistan and PEMRA Council of Complaints, adding that there was no change in the PFUJ’s stance that any new media regulations should come through after consultation and consensus of media stakeholders.
Referring to the anti-media policies of the former PTI government, the PFUJ secretary-general said his organization had included the withdrawal of all cases against journalists in the 20-point charter of demands submitted to the new federal government on April 24.
Besides, the Joint Action Committee was working on a draft law relating to electronic media and digital journalists on the lines of the Newspaper Employees (Conditions of Service) Act, 1973.
“The draft law would provide protection to media workers employed in broadcast and digital outlets presently who have no safeguards in terms of employment and service contracts presently in the country,” Zaidi explained.
PFUJ presents charter of demands to govt
Separately, PFUJ President Shahzada Zulfiqar presented the charter of demands to Mubashir Hassan Khan, Principal Information Officer of the Press Information Department (PID), at the National Press Club. The 20-point charter seeks the resolution of issues confronting the media and journalists.
The demands include an end to policies that led to the financial crisis in the industry. The document called upon the federal, as well as the four provincial governments, to withdraw all cases and FIRs registered against journalists and to refrain from initiating further police cases.
The delegation told the PIO that the PFUJ, its allied unions, and press clubs wanted to solve problems being faced by journalists and other media workers. These include restoration of pay cuts imposed during the financial crisis, implementation of the eighth wage award, clearance of Rs 6 billion outstanding dues of media houses, formulation of a `transparent’ advertisement policy, steps for revival of regional newspapers, measures for ensuring safety of journalist and arrest of those who are involved in crimes against journalists. The delegation called upon the government to hold an urgent dialogue with all the stakeholders so that a comprehensive plan could be chalked out for the revival of the media industry.
PEMRA notice to ARY News over fake news
Meanwhile, PEMRA issued a show-cause notice to ARY News for airing what it called “fake/unverified news” based on informal sources about the stance of Pakistan’s former ambassador to the US Asad Majeed regarding an alleged foreign conspiracy to topple former prime minister Imran Khan’s government.
According to the comments quoted in the PEMRA notice, ARY News claimed to cite sources that Majeed, in the NSC meeting, maintained that the cable’s contents amounted to interference in internal affairs and that it was a “reality” that threatening language had been used in the cable and the ambassador remained steadfast on his stance despite government pressure.
On April 22, the CPNE and AMEND expressed concern over the reported partial shutdown of ARY News transmission in the country. Federal Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb later denied that the government had not ordered any closure of the channel’s transmission.