Press Council working without rules

ISLAMABAD: A recent litigation in the Islamabad High Court showed that the Press Council of Pakistan (PCP) is working without any rules of business even 10 years after its establishment.

The PCP was set up in 2002 with the aim to revise, update, enforce and implement the ethical code of practice for newspapers, news agencies, editors, journalists and publishers. However, it is still without any rule of business.

The federal government was responsible to frame the rules. The working of the council without any rule was revealed when three former employees of the council – Mohammad Waqas, Ghulam Nabi and Abdullah Arsalan – filed a petition with the IHC seeking their reinstatement.

After initial hearing of the petition on Nov 20, Justice Riaz Ahmad Khan issued notices to the ministry of information and the PCP chairman to submit their replies. The next hearing of the petition will be held in January.

The employees contended before the court that at the time of their appointment by the ministry of information before the establishment of the PCP, they had been told that their services would be regularised after the federal government formed the rules for the council. They said the PCP officials had also assured them that they would not publish any advertisement for filling of the posts and would regularise their services.

However, they added, the PCP on March 29, 2012, terminated the services of Waqas and Ghulam Nabi while Abdullah Arsalan was sent home on July 13.

The petitioners told the court that there was a decision of a cabinet sub-committee that the services of contractual employees who had completed one year in any ministry, division or attached department would not be terminated without bringing their case to the sub-committee.

The contracts of all such employees should be extended till final decision by the sub-committee. The petitioners said a list of 49 employees of the PCP was produced before the cabinet sub-committee in December 2011 which approved regularisation of their services.

The petitioners alleged that the higher officials of the PCP had been trying to accommodate their relatives on the vacant positions and in this respect they also published an advertisement.

Raja Shafqat Khan Abbasi, the PCP chairman, told Dawn that the federal government was responsible for forming the rules of business for the PCP. He, however, said the PCP had framed regulations to run its internal affairs.

He said the employees were appointed before the proper functioning of the PCP when there was no chairman, registrar and members. After the appointment of the officials, the ministry of finance in 2007 approved a total of seven-member staff for the PCP while the ministry of information appointed almost 40 persons.

“I have sympathy with the sacked employees but if the government is not willing to increase the sanctioned posts they cannot be accommodated,” he added.

He said the PCP had sent a reference to the ministry of finance for the settlement of the issue and was waiting for its reply.

Pakistan Press Foundation

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