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Thursday, April 18, 2024

Govt. to ban media coverage for convicts, Denies influencing PEMRA

Government has decided that no convict or any other political leader who is under investigation will be given any air time and asked PEMRA to strictly follow the guidelines. This decision comes in the wake of recent controversial takedown of Zardari's interview with Hamid Mir.

News Analysis |

In a much-anticipated move, the federal cabinet on Tuesday decided to block media coverage and interviews of politicians who are convicts or under-trial prisoners and directed the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) to fulfill its “responsibility” to discourage airing of such programs by electronic media.

Later on, Education Minister Shafqat Mehmood while speaking to media persons in Islamabad said that Prime Minister Imran Khan and members of his cabinet unanimously decided that no convicted or under-trial prisoner should be given media coverage or should be allowed to give an interview. He quoted the prime minister as saying, “those who have plundered national wealth and brought the country on the verge of collapse should not be glorified. No democracy permits interviews and media coverage of those who have been arrested on charges of corruption.”

Nobody under the trial is given opportunity to incite hatred against the superior courts.

He, however, said the government had not directed PEMRA to close down any private TV channel as it was an independent body, competent to take its own decisions.

The controversy broke up after the interview was former President Asif Ali Zardari who is currently under the custody of NAB was not allowed to go air on Geo News. Some journalists and commentators claimed it was the violation of set rules and a slap in the face of freedom of expression in the country. Hamid Mir, the host of capital show, commented that “we are not living in a free country”.

The government is reportedly of the view that the production orders of Mr. Zardari were issued only to enable him to attend the assembly session and not for giving any interview to ‘undermine’ the judiciary and trial court.

Read more: Has Speaker NA decided not to issue production orders of arrested lawmakers?

It was widely being discussed across the country whether those convicted or under-trial should be given airtime on national TV to comment on the case and slam the courts or NAB. A petition has already been filed before the Supreme Court of Pakistan challenging the production orders of the arrested members of the National Assembly.

Reports suggest that the petitioner has challenged the production orders of opposition leaders and politicians arrested over corruption allegations while arguing that such orders can’t be issued when the accused is under physical remand of law enforcement agencies. The appeal further entailed that the production orders were a systematic order which can’t be seen in isolation from court orders.

Read more: Imran Khan: No production orders for thieves

The decision of the federal court is laudable for larger segment of the society that believes that those under due process of law must present all their evidence before the court of law so that no court in the country becomes a victim of power politics. A legal observer believes that “the decision is in line with the law. Nobody under the trial is given opportunity to incite hatred against the superior courts. Let the case be decided and then allow people, if not found guilty, to appear on TV and explain their position,”.