KARACHI - The All Pakistan Newspapers Society strongly rejected a news item that appeared in a section of the press alleging the APNS of exerting pressure on the federal government to clear the 10-year-old outstanding dues of advertising agencies. In a press release issued on Thursday, the organisation stated that the said news item is a pan of malicious campaign against the APNS and intended to blackmail advertising agencies. The APNS explained that it has never exerted any undue pressure on any government department or functionaries to bypass rules and procedures or extend any special favour to any stakeholder of the APNS. The APNS is duty bound to get the dues of its accredited advertising agencies cleared by the advertisers relating to their invoices for advertisements published in newspapers. In this respect, no discrimination is made between public or private sector advertisers and the APNS take stern actions against the defaulters. It may also be mentioned here that in the last three years, the APNS has suspended the advertising of various provincial governments, ministries departments and autonomous bodies on account of their default with APNS accredited advertising agencies. The APNS highlighting the background of the matter under reference, stated that it had received in September 2008 claims from 24 advertising agencies against 39 federal ministries amounting to Rs917, 852,798 for the outstanding bills relating to the period of 8 years from July 1, 2000 to June 30, 2008, covering all their outstanding dues against these departments. In this respect, the APNS had suspended 7 ministries in March 2009 which were restored on the assurance of the then federal minister for Information. The information ministry subsequently took up the matter with the prime minister who kindly approved a special grant in April 2009 to clear these long outstanding dues against the federal government. However, due to procedural problems, the grant could not be utilised and a major part lapsed on June 30, 2009. The APNS president and office bearers took up the issue again with the finance minister, information minister, the prime minister and the President of Pakistan that these dues have accumulated over a period of more than 10 years and the continued delay in recovery of this huge amount would threaten the survival of print media. The advertising agencies had already cleared the dues of member publications relating to the advertisements of federal government from their own sources. If the dues were not paid by the government, the agencies would collapse, resulting in a disaster for the newspaper industry. In January 2010, the grant was restored consequent upon a meeting of the office bearers with the information ministry wherein it was decided that the ministry will verify the claims of the agencies with the concerned departments and make payment to the agencies directly. However, the grant of the prime minister again expired on June 30, 2010. The matter was again taken up with the president and the prime minister. The grant approved twice could not be utilised due to procedural objections raised by the AGPR for submission of original invoices, release orders, and tear-sheets. The APNS and accredited agencies maintained that the original documents had already been submitted to the concerned client departments duly verified by the PID and misplaced by the departments and hence original documents could not be resubmitted. However, copies duly verified by the PID were available. To resolve the deadlock, the prime minister formed a committee consisting of the Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister, the information secretary and the APNS secretary general. This committee decided that the legitimate dues of the agencies be paid after verification by the PID. Subsequently, the federal information minister formed a two members committee comprising APNS president and the information secretary which decided that only those invoices of advertising agencies will be paid that are duly verified by the PID and are accompanied by copies of DROs issued by PID and invoices of the advertising agencies. The APNS categorically stated that the APNS in various meetings held during last three years with the Ministry of Information, the prime minister and the president had never insisted that the unverified and unsubstantiated claims of advertising agencies be paid. Meanwhile, the spokesman of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting through a press statement issued in Islamabad on Thursday has clarified that it is on the longstanding demand of the All Pakistan Newspapers Society (APNS), the ministry proceeded to settle this festering issue which has been pending for the last many years. In this regard a delegation of the APNS met with the prime minister in January, 2011 and vigorously demanded that the issue of outstanding bills of newspapers / advertising agencies for the period July 2, 2000 to June 30, 2008 may be cleared at the earliest. Since the matter was long delayed, it was agreed with the APNS to find a way for disbursement of outstanding advertisement dues against federal government. It is in this context the information ministry in consultation with the APNS, adopted a procedure to clear the outstanding advertisement dues through the Office of the Accountant General Pakistan Revenues (AGPR). The policy of the government is to facilitate media and to pay outstanding dues to the newspapers and the advertising agencies, the statement read.