ISLAMABAD -  Minister of State for Information Marriyum Aurangzeb on Tuesday informed the Senate Standing Committee on Information, Broadcasting and National Heritage that the advertisement policy for newspapers was being finalised in consultation with stakeholders.

The Senate panel met under the chair of Senator Kamal Ali Agha and discussed different issues related to the ministry of information. 

The committee was given a briefing on advertisements issued by the Press Information Department (PID) since 2012.

Aurangzeb said that Audit Circulation Bureau (ABC) record was being computerised to bring transparency in newspapers’ circulation record and issuance of advertisements.

She said that bids from new advertising agencies were sought to end the monopoly on advertisements.

Principal Information Officer (PIO) Rao Tehsin Ali Khan told the committee that the centralised policy of issuance of advertisements was adopted after the recommendation of the parliamentary committee. He said that a complete detail of the advertisements issued to all newspapers and periodicals in the last two years were uploaded on the PID website.

The committee asked the ministry to speed up the process of preparation of a draft to amend PEMRA (Amendment) Act 2007 so that the authority could become stronger and establish its writ more effectively.

Information Secretary Ahmed Nawaz Sukhera told the committee that it was a wholesome exercise involving all stakeholders and the draft prepared so far was at its initial stage. He said that the regulator has to be independent and effective.

Member Committee Farhatullah Babar appreciated the ministry and PEMRA for realising the importance of amendment to the act.

PEMRA Chairman Absar Alam told the committee that it was the initial draft which was being improved after taking all stakeholders including the Pakistan Broadcasters Association and the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists on board.

On the issue of an alleged harassment case in Lok Virsa, the committee asked the information secretary to look into the matter and if required a committee should be constituted.

Aurangzeb informed the committee after she took over the office, a harassment case ended with the termination of an officer involved in the harassment.

She said that in the second case involving two PTV anchors, the accused was bailed out by the inquiry committee, as no concrete evidence could be presented before the committee.

She said that the ministry has made training of all staff mandatory about the law on harassment of women at the workplace.

She said that the issue of harassment at Lok Virsa would be thoroughly investigated by the ministry and necessary action would be taken as it was not an issue of a female employee but a mindset.

Sukhera sought a week’s time to sort it out.

About the journalists' quota in Bhara Kahu Housing Scheme, the committee was informed that for a total of 62 plots falling in different categories, 707 applications were forwarded to the ministry and out of which 573 applicants have provided all the required details.

The committee also discussed the deteriorating condition of a building owned by the ministry. Adviser to Prime Minister on National History and Literary Heritage Irfan Siddiqui replied that the Sindh High Court had issued directives to the provincial government to hand over the museum to the federal government but the Supreme Court had given a stay order.

The meeting was also attended by Senators Rubina Khalid, Nehal Hashmi, Karim Dad Khawaja and Dr Ashok Kumar and others.