Wednesday, February 3, 2016

BOL TV Issue Discussed at the National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Information and Broadcasting

BOL TV Issue Discussed at the National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Information and Broadcasting

The National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Information & Broadcasting will raise the issue of the suspension of Bol News and entertainment licenses and salaries of its employees in an in-camera meeting planned for next week (8-15 February 2016) in which representatives of the Interior Ministry, FIA and PEMRA have been summoned.

Representatives of the Bol Media Group have been also asked to attend the meeting, which will also discuss Interior Ministry’s controversial decision to cancel the NOC of Bol News’ no-objection certificate after first giving it clearance.  

The decision was made on Wednesday 3 February 2016, at the National Assembly’s Standing Committee meeting, which was chaired by Pir Muhammad Aslam Bodla. Those who attended included Mariam Aurangzeb, Malik Shakir Bashir, Muhammd Azhar Khan Jadoon, Imran Zafar Leghari, Belum Hasnain, Malik Muhammad Amir Dogar, Arifa Khalid Pervez and Mushahidullah Khan.

The special in-camera meeting to discuss the Bol News issue has been called over Imran Zafar Leghari’s recommendation, which was unanimously agreed by all members.

Chairman PEMRA Absar Alam informed the Standing Committee that the Interior Ministry remains responsible for the closure of Bol licenses and the regulator has no role in it. If the Interior Ministry issues the no-objection certificate to Bol, PEMRA will take up its license issue in the very next meeting, he said. 

PEMRA illegally suspended licenses of Bol in September 2015 over the recommendations of the Council of Complaints, which does not have any authority under the law to make such a proposal. The Bol Media Group has already gone to court against this decision. 
Earlier the Information Ministry had also ordered PEMRA to shut Bol operations, rendering more than 2,200 media workers jobless. 

Giving chronology of events, PEMRA Chairman said that the Bol was given NOC by the Interior Ministry on March 25, 2013. But on July 4, 2013, the Ministry wrote another letter to PEMRA saying that the previous letter giving NOC to Bol was issued “erroneously”, therefore it stands cancelled, he said.

Bol Media Group challenged the decision in the Sindh High Court which initially gave a stay order, allowing the Bol Management to continue with the project. In its detailed decision, the honourable court asked the authorities to complete the formalities.  

Alam said that the issue of NOC for Bol is the responsibility of the Interior Ministry and despite reminders from PEMRA the ministry has failed to move on this issue. PEMRA Chairman also disclosed that 90 percent of the news channels do not give salaries to their employees on time and a majority of them flout PEMRA directives in their transmission. PEMRA will move against all such channels indiscriminately, he added.

Imran Zafar Leghari said that it seems that Bol Media Group is being unnecessarily maligned, saying that it remains the responsibility of the elected representatives to get it justice.

Muhammad Azhar Khan Jadoon said the authorities should explain why hype was created on the issue of Axact and Bol, which is also a humanitarian issue involving jobs of thousands of people.  
Committee members expressed their surprise that despite the passage of nine months owners of Bol Media Group have not been granted bail, though the interim charges are of bailable nature. 

Bol Media Group was represented by senior journalists Nazeer Leghari, Faysal Aziz Khan and Amir Zia.