NA panel clears PEMRA bill with new definition of ‘disinformation’

Information Minister Maryam Aurangzeb briefing the NA Standing Committee on Information and Broadcasting in this file photo.  - NA/Twitter Committees
Information Minister Maryam Aurangzeb briefing the NA Standing Committee on Information and Broadcasting in this file photo. – NA/Twitter Committees
  • NA body termed PEMRA bill as historic.
  • The Bill defines misinformation and misinformation.
  • HRCP expressed concern over the amendment

Islamabad: The National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Information and Broadcasting on Friday approved the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Amendment) Bill, 2023, which also defines disinformation.

committee that met radio pakistan Chaired by Javeria Zafar Ahir, he described the bill as a historic initiative for the welfare of journalists and appreciated the efforts of all the stakeholders including the government in this regard.

Briefing the committee, Information and Broadcasting Minister Maryam Aurangzeb said that amendment in PEMRA law is the need of the hour as the entire scenario of media has changed.

He said that the PEMRA Ordinance, which was promulgated in 2002, is being amended for the first time. “Nine of its sections were amended, while five new ones were added.”

The minister said that under the amended law, for the first time, media persons have been given the right to lodge a complaint with the Grievance Council, while earlier they were dismissed even for demanding salary.

Under the new bill, instead of the PEMRA chairman, a three-member committee will now have the power to shut down a channel, he said.

Maryam said that in the past, an unsuccessful attempt was made to pass a black law like the Pakistan Media Development Authority.

However, the present government took 13 months to prepare the amended bill after extensive consultations were held with all the stakeholders including media employees associations and owners of media houses.

The minister said that the definition of fake news, disinformation and misinformation has also been included in the bill. Misrepresentation and misrepresentation were interpreted differently.

What is propaganda?

It means verifiable false, misleading, manipulated, made up or fabricated information that is disseminated or shared with the intent to harm the reputation of a person or to cause trouble for political, personal or financial interest or gain, without attempting to obtain another person’s point of view or without giving it due coverage and space, but does not include misinformation.

What is misinformation?

It means verifiable false content or information that is disseminated or shared unintentionally

He said that under the new bill, the penalty for knowingly spreading false news has been increased from Rs 10 lakh to Rs 10 crore.

Earlier, channels used to argue that the fake news they aired was filed by journalists in their personal capacity, but now they (channels) will also be made accountable.

Maryam said that according to the amended bill, “timely payment means payment made to electronic media employees within two months.”

He said that at the federal and provincial levels, government advertisements would not be given to electronic media houses for non-payment of salaries.

He said that the duration of telecast of advertisement during regular program on electronic media shall not exceed five minutes.

The minister said that broadcast media licenses will be issued for 20 years and distribution licenses for 10 years.

Maryam said that for the first time, the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) and Pakistan Broadcasters Association (PBA) have been given representation under the new PEMRA law, while the code of conduct for news channels has also included a condition not to broadcast “false information”.

HRCP expressed concern

Meanwhile, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has expressed concern over the bill, saying it goes into censorship territory.

The commission said the proposed amendment has assigned the role of broadcasting ‘authentic’ news to the regulator to curb disinformation.

“While any responsible journalist is honored to avoid knowingly reporting misinformation with the intent to harm, we are concerned that the definition of ‘disinformation’ in this bill moves into censorship territory and may allow powerful groups or individuals to block journalists seeking both sides of the story,” it said.

The HRCP further stated that it violates Article 19 of the Constitution protecting freedom of expression.

“While the Bill takes a significant step towards protecting the salaries of electronic media personnel – a long-standing demand of media trade unions and rights activists – it needs to be reviewed to ensure that salaries of media personnel are paid within 30 days instead of 60 days in keeping with labor laws.”


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