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Sunday, April 14, 2024

Illegal media practices prevail in Pakistan – PEMRA takes notice

News Analysis |

Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority’s (PEMRA) Council of Complaints Lahore took notice of derogatory language used in various drama’s aired on Pakistani channels. This was done while hearing the complaint, lodged by Asad Naeem, regarding a program “Khabardar” aired on Express TV. The used of derogatory language especially agains the lawyer’s community was made apparent. The channel was warned to observe the ‘Law, Rules and Regulations, Code of Conduct and Terms and Conditions’ of their license – in letter and spirit.

Read more: Judicial control on television content questions PEMRA’s efficacy

In another complaint lodged against 7 News Channel by Fahad Qadir, the Director Public Affairs and Communications, on behalf of the Coca-Cola Export Corporation Pakistan and Afghanistan Region, consisted of the airing of false and defamatory content against Coca Cola Company’s water brand “DASANI” in its program “Capital Front.” The Council of Complain (CoC) adjourned the matter with the direction to not air any content pertaining to the subject on the channel as well as on social media until the matter is decided by the CoC.

The Council of complaints, while hearing the complaint of Medical Officer Dr. Mahmoona Kausar of BHU Kot Qazi, Tehsil Lalian, Chiniot, against the City Media Group, dismissed the matter as the complaint was against an unlicensed and unauthorized channel.

Dr. Mahmoona Kausar accused the City Media Group for targeting her professional career but the case had to be dismissed as PEMRA has already initiated a campaign to off air all such illegal and unlicensed channel thorough out the country.

The meeting was presided over by Iftikhar Ahmad Tarar, while other members including Dr. Sughra Sadaf, Dr. Lubna Zaheer, Dr. Mubashir Nadeem, Ms. Fauzia Viqar, Ms. Fariha Shahid and Ms. Ayesha Manzoor Wattoo (RGM/ Secretary COC) were also present in the meeting.

Read more: PEMRA bans Valentine’s Day celebration on all media

This is not the first time PEMRA has taken active action against such claims as in September 2017, the institute forwarded Intelligence Bureau’s complaint of airing fake news by ARY News, demanding relevant action to be taken. The Intelligence Bureau (IB) stated that the program ‘Power Play’ aired a fabricated news story alleging initiation of a report by the IB along with displaying fake documents in regard to linkages of 37 parliamentarians with militant organizations.

PEMRA has become quite active after the Supreme Court expressed outrage over the institute not taking actions TV channels for broadcasting programs that could sabotage the democratic set-up of the country, in 2016.

As the then Chief Justice stated “the discussions in television channels sabotage the democratic set-up, provoke fascism and sectarian differences in society, but PEMRA still runs after vulgarity in televisions programs.”

This eventually led PEMRA to make sure their rules and regulations are made more effective.

Apart for focusing on vulgarity, their focus has also shifted to illegal practices and indirect anti-state propaganda.

PEMRA went on to warn TV channels to ensure that no person from their group is involved in weakening the democratic set-up.

Read more: Why is PEMRA not playing its actual role?

However, it seems that PEMRA went a little too far when Dawn, The News, The Nation and Pakistan Today reported that PEMRA banned advertisements that marketed contraceptives and family planning products. However, the ban was taken off after a day as such measures are part of the national agenda.

This eventually led a nationwide conference on ethical journalism to take place, organized by Mishal Pakistan with collaboration with Allama Iqbal Open University in Peshawar, Focusing on Balance, honesty, fairness, objectivity, liberty, truthfulness and accuracy.

Considering PEMRA’s active role in such matters – currently and in the past – the questions appears every on and then; when does censoring take over freedom of speech?