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Government to withdraw draconian amendments to electronic media laws

(PPF/IFEX) - Pakistan's President General Pervez Musharraf has said the government would withdraw the controversial amendments to the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) law, enacted on 4 June 2007.

Musharraf announced the decision after meeting with a delegation of the Pakistan Broadcasters Association (PBA) on 9 June. The PBA informed the president that they would formulate a code of conduct for the electronic media within three days.

On 7 June, Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz had suspended implementation of the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) Amendment Ordinance 2007.

That decision came after discussions between Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz and media representatives on 6 June. The media representatives demanded the withdrawal of the amendments that they said were viewed as unacceptable and harsh, not only by journalists but by all citizens of the country. Government representatives in the 6 June discussions included the federal minister for information and broadcasting, the information secretary and the secretary general of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League (PML-Q). The media was represented by the PBA chair, the APNS president and secretary general, and the "Nation" editor.

Both sides had then agreed that the amendments would be reviewed by a six-member committee comprised of three media representatives - one each from the PBA, All Pakistan Newspapers Society (APNS) and the Council of Pakistan Newspaper Editors (CPNE) - and three government officials - one each from the federal Ministry of Information, the Ministry of Law and Parliamentary Affairs and PEMRA.

PEMRA Amendment Ordinance 2007 gave the state new powers to seal the premises of broadcasters, confiscate their equipment and suspend their licenses. It also increased maximum fines for violations of PEMRA laws tenfold.

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