Islamabad, Apr 12 : In its first legislative amendment after assuming office, the new PPP-led coalition government introduced an amendment in the PEMRA bill, seeking to bring make the press free of the restrictions imposed by the previous regime through an ordinance on November 3.
The amendment would undo the impact of amendments made after the imposition of the state of emergency last year through Ordinance LXV of 2007 and remove all restrictions imposed on the press therein.
Federal Information Minister Sherry Rehman introduced the bill amendment in the National Assembly yesterday. Later, she told the reporters that under the proposed legislation, the authorities' powers to seize equipment and seal premises would be withdrawn and discretionary powers of PEMRA to cancel licences of TV channels would be annulled.
"The amendments will remove the entire apparatus of restrictions imposed on the press," the Daily Times quoted Sherry as saying.
She added that the bill proposed restrictions on canceling broadcast media or cable operators' licences without adopting appropriate legal procedure.
According to her, the bill proposed lifting the ban on live media coverage of events and reversal of the increase in fine for PEMRA Ordinance violations from Rs 1 million to Rs 10 million as well as the enhanced jail term. The government would also repeal the code of conduct for the press to ensure its freedom, she added.
She said the transmission of any channel from any source would not be blocked, nor would anyone pressurize cable operators to suspend them temporarily. "It is the beginning. A lot more will have to be done in future," she said.
Replying to a question if President Pervez Musharraf was consulted before bringing the legislation, she said that ending media curbs was on the PPP's agenda. The previous government had "imposed silence" on the media instead of improving its own performance, she said and added that: "We will do no such thing".