ISLAMABAD - Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani, while assuring governments all-out support to the Press Council of Pakistan (PCP), on Tuesday directed the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting to create an endowment fund for the council to ensure its independent and influence-free functioning. The Prime Minister gave this direction while addressing the members of the Press Council, who led by its Chairman Raja Mohammad Shafqat Khan Abbasi called on him here at the PM House, after their first meeting on Tuesday. The meeting, besides PCP members, was also attended by Minister for Information and Broadcasting, Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan, Secretary Information Taimur Azmat Osman and senior officials. Gilani also directed the Ministry of Information to facilitate the Press Council in setting up its administrative offices including the head office in Islamabad. The Prime Minister said he was happy to know that the PCP by holding its first meeting has become fully functional, adding, he believed that the country would benefit from the expertise of PCP, which comprised professional people. He said since Pakistan being a responsible country and a nuclear power was passing through critical time, with all eyes of the world focused on it, media had very important role in improving and boosting the countrys true image at home and abroad. The Prime Minister described the PCP as a dividend of democracy and expressed the hope that this institution would also play its critical role in future as well. At present, we have democracy, the country is in safe hands. But God forbid, if anything happens (to democracy) in Pakistan, you will have a critical role to play, he said and added the institutions were created with futuristic approach. The Prime Minister said the present government had completed almost four years, with the next being an electioneering year, adding, We have passed through difficult phase and now want to pick thorns from the path of coming generation. Gilani was and has always been supportive of press freedom, adding, his father used to ask him to read the editorial pages of the newspapers to know critical facts and opinion. The Prime Minister said he had good relations with media and taken their criticism as advice. He said the establishment of Press Council was a step towards strengthening of mass media, the fourth pillar of the state. We all know that the media in Pakistan has assumed the role of a watchdog of all the three others pillars of the state, he added. Gilani said the Ethical Code of Practice for press set out in Press Council of Pakistan Ordinance was formulated for the purpose of its functioning in accordance with the spirit of freedom of press. The ethical code promotes high standards of responsible journalism, particularly with regard to addressing the public complaints, he added. He said the democratic government believed that the media should be faithful to freedom of the press on one hand and accurate, fair and accountable to the civil society. In many countries, the press councils are actively working as regulatory bodies where public can go to address their grievances against the media, he added. The Prime Minister said function of the Press Council of Pakistan was to strive to maintain high standards of fairness while addressing the public complaints against the media. He said the credit for appointing the new Chairman and notification of all the members of the Press Council went to the democratic government. Under the Ordinance, Press Council consists of 19 members, including its Chairman. The Chairman is appointed by President of Pakistan on the advice of the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister said the Council had become fully functional and its first meeting was held on November 01, 2011. The present Chairman, Raja Muhammad Shafqat Khan Abbasi, assumed the charge of Chairman, Press Council, on September 7, 2011 and immediately met with all the nominated members and other stakeholders in the media. The composition of the Council include: four members by the All Pakistan Newspapers Society, four members by the Council of Pakistan Newspapers Editors, four members by the professional bodies of Journalists, Vice Chairman Pakistan Bar Council, Chairperson or nominee of the Higher Education Commission, one member by the Leader of the House in the National Assembly, one member by the Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly, one mass media educationist to be nominated by the Council, one woman to be nominated by the National Commission on Status of Women in Pakistan. Though the Ordinance was promulgated in 2002, only two chairmen were appointed for a short tenure by the government, without any notification of its members. The first chairman Justice Ijaz Yousaf Chaudhry served the Council from 03-03-2007 to 06-11-2007. The second chairman Justice Javed Iqbal served the Council from 15-11-2007 to 15-03-2009. Information Minister Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan while speaking on the occasion termed the first meeting of PCP as well as the meeting with Prime Minister as a historic day. She expressed the hope that the government and media would benefit the vision of PCP members and the Council will prove to be an important component to strengthen media. The information minister said President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Gilani had clearly directed for media engagement and give top priority to facilitate them. She mentioned the tabling of Journalist Protection and Welfare Bill 2011 in Senate on Monday and expressed the hope that the Press Council would play the role of a bridge in resolving journalists issues. Chairman PCP Raja Mohammad Shafqat Khan Abbasi and other members of the Council while speaking on the occasion appreciated the present government and the Prime Minister for their support in making the PCP functional. They also spoke about various problems faced by media as well as the issues of PCP including the financial and administrative ones. PCP members Majid Nizami, Syed Fasih Iqbal, Siddiq Baloch, Ghulam Nabi Mughal, Zia Shahid, Iqbal Jafri, Nasir Zaidi, Mujib-ur-Rehman Shami, Wamiq A Zuberi and others attended the meeting.