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October 28, 2018

Licence for educational radio station: National Press Club denied security clearance

National

October 28, 2018

ISLAMABAD: The government has refused to issue security clearance to the National Press Club (NPC) of Pakistan for a non-commercial FM radio station meant for professional training of working journalists.

It is interesting to note that all the board members, of a trust of the NPC which applied with Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) for grant of a non-commercial FM Radio station for the purpose of education and professional training of working journalists in print and electronic media, hold accreditation cards issued by the federal government after their proper security clearance. However, all these security cleared directors were denied security clearance for launching an FM station for education purpose.

“PTI government is committed to Freedom of Expression and Freedom of Press in Pakistan. PTI will always promote and support any efforts for the training and capacity building of journalists,” Iftikhar Durrani, Special Assistant to Prime Minister said while talking to The News.

Iftikhar Durrani said that this case of rejection of security clearance for an education-based FM station for the NPC was not in his knowledge. “We will make all out efforts to resolve this issue of security clearance and I will personally look into the reasons which were quoted while denying security clearance to National Press Club of Pakistan,” Durrani said.

An October 15, 2018 letter of Pemra No.10-1(357) Gen-2016/1030/215 denying issuance of licence to the NPC reads;

“Subject: Application for issuance of Non-Commercial FM Broadcast station license for National Press Club. Islamabad.

Please refer to your application no. nil dated 20-09-2016 on the subject noted above.

2. It is informed that, your application for issuance of Non-Commercial FM station license for National Press Club, Islamabad cannot be processed further due to non-security clearance from Ministry of Interior (MoI), a mandatory requirement under Rule 7(d) read with 9(5) of PEMRA Rules 2009.

3. This issues with the approval of the Competent Authority.

Under SOPs, the PEMRA after receiving application for grant of license for FM (or for any other license of satellite TV channel or distribution network etc) sent a request to ministry of interior for the security clearance of the directors of the company applying for the license.

Ministry of Interior after receiving such a request from Pemra forward the same to two intelligence agencies. Upon receiving feedback from these intelligence agencies, the ministry of interior communicates its decision of giving security clearance or denying the same to Pemra. Pemra accordingly awards licence or regrets in case of denial of security clearance.

Here are few important points which were promised to the nation by the ruling PTI in its manifesto before the general elections; “Ensure freedom of the Press:

- We are committed to maintaining a vigorous free media, which will evolve its own rules to ensure responsible journalism both in the electronic and print media.

- We will also ensure that media owners provide insurance, training and protective cover for their journalists working in conflict zones in particular and in the field in general.

- PEMRA will be made autonomous so it does not become a political tool in the hands of any government to target the freedom of the electronic media.

PEMRA in its July 3, 2017 letter to federal ministry of interior seeking security clearance for this FM wrote;

“Subject: SECURITY VETTING FOR AWARD OF NON-COMMERCIAL FM RADIO BROADCAST STATION LICENCE - NATIONAL PRESS CLUB, ISLAMABAD.

National Press Club, Islamabad (NPC) is a non-profit organization/trust registered with Securities Exchange Commission of Pakistan and has applied for grant of non- commercial FM Radio Station license for Islamabad. Copy of the Trust Deed, list of Trustees & copies of their CNICs are attached.

2. Ministry of Interior is requested to convey the security clearance in respect of the National Press Club under Rule 7(d) read with Rule 9(5) of the PEMRA Rules 2009 & Regulation 5(7) of PEMRA (Radio Broadcast Station Operations) Regulations, 2012 enabling PEMRA to proceed further in the matter.

3. Under Section 22 of PEMRA Ordinance 2002 as amended by (Amendment) Act, 2007, the Authority is required to decide an application for grant of license within 100 days from receipt of the application. Therefore, Ministry of Interior is requested to convey its consent/ response accordingly at the earliest, please.”

It is interesting that many universities in Pakistan operate non-commercial FM stations and security clearance for them is never denied because they are education based FM stations.

According to sources in Pemra, the security clearance is denied by the present government and a regret letter is written to the NPC immediately after that. PEMRA sources say that the authorities fear that an FM station being run by the press club by working journalists may start airing news items along with stated objective of education and professional training of journalists.

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