The All Pakistan Newspaper Society (APNS) has warned the government that it would stop publishing its advertisements from March 12 owing to non-payment of dues. Its Executive Committee that met in Karachi on Tuesday also hinted at the possibility of countrywide protests in case their dues were not paid. Non-payment of advertisement bills is in fact an old governmental ploy of keeping the press under pressure. It amounts to crippling it financially because it is mainly through advertisements that newspapers generate revenue. It is quite obvious that if the newspapers would not have sufficient funds, the employees will not get their salaries. Indirectly this tactic means putting the livelihood of thousands of journalists into jeopardy.
The total money government owes to newspapers is one billion 580 million rupees. This is too big an amount to be held back as it can register a harmful impact on the newspaper industry across the country. In fact the government should be beholden to the press for allowing it the concession of first publishing its advertisement and receiving the payments three months later. Sadly, successive governments took advantage of this favour so much so that now it has become almost a norm to indefinitely delay the bills. It is incumbent on the federal government to at once release the payments. The government too will bear the inconvenience of being unable to make vital announcements if according to their warning the newspapers resort to a ban on its ads and an unnecessary friction between the government and the media might ensue. It is a sad reflection on the state of a democratic dispensation to push the media to a tight corner.