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SC disappointed by Pemra’s inaction over anti-democracy content of TV programmes

SC disappointed by Pemra’s inaction over anti-democracy content of TV programmes

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court expressed its disappointment with Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority’s (Pemra) pursuit of vulgarity and obscenity in television programmes, when attempts to undermine the democratic set-up and whipping up of sectarian tensions continued unabated on different talk shows.

“[No matter that] discussions in television channels [aim to] sabotage the democratic set-up, provoke fascism and sectarian differences in society, but Pemra still runs after vulgarity in television programmes,” regretted Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed.

Day after day, the ideologies of Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah and Dr Allama Iqbal were let down through programmes shown on private television channels, Justice Saeed bemoaned.

Chief Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali, who was heading the three-judge Supreme Court bench, also expressed his disappointment when he observed that the sole purpose of a number of television channels seemed to be the promotion of sectarian disharmony in society.

The bench had taken up the case against obscenity, moved by late Jamaat-i-Islami emir Qazi Hussain Ahmed and retired Justice Wajhiuddin Ahmed. Both men had raised concerns about the airing of illegal Indian channels, the broadcast of obscene and vulgar dramas on Pakistani channels, immoral advertisements, illegal CD channels distributed by cable networks, and entertainment segments in bulletins on Pakistani news channels.

During Tuesday’s proceedings, Justice Saeed regretted the rampant disparaging and insulting tone of most talk shows. Pointing towards JI lawyer Taufiq Asif, who was in court, the judge recalled that the work of legendary playwright and author Saadat Hasan Manto was also banned by people like him.

“The books burnt by the likes of you were later selected for Nobel prizes,” the judge recalled, adding that they had lived through dictatorships, when newscasters could lose their jobs if their headscarves slipped even slightly from their heads.
CJP Jamali laments that the sole purpose of a number of television channels seems to be the promotion of sectarian disharmony in society

Hafiz S.A. Rehman, appearing on behalf of Pemra, explained that the code of conduct for the electronic media banned the airing of programmes which were against the ideology of Pakistan or its armed forces, promoted sectarianism or drug use etc.

Had Pemra strictly implemented its rules and regulations, the situation would have drastically improved, the chief justice deplored, asking whether any action had ever been taken against any television channel.

More than 60 per cent of the litigation before the judiciary would go away if state institutions started discharging their functions honestly, the chief justice emphasised.

Justice Saeed clarified that while nobody had the right to infringe upon the right of the people to criticise, things became problematic when lines were crossed. Citing the example of Singapore, where defamation laws were used to silence criticism against the government, Justice Saeed said the judiciary did not want to see “such tranquillity in Pakistan”.

Pemra’s counsel, however, explained that two television channels had been fined around Rs1 million, but had managed to obtain a stay order from the Sindh High Court.

During the hearing Taufiq Asif emphasised upon the need for developing a commonly accepted standards of decency to preserve Islamic norms in the country which was also a constitutional obligation.

In its reply, Pemra told the court that the Electronic Media (Programmes and Advertisement) Code of Conduct 2015 had already been implemented. However, it suggested that a proposal requiring all satellite television channels and Pemra licensees to constitute in-house monitoring committees to check content and the installation of delay mechanisms would eliminate obscenity and vulgarity once and for all.

But the court adjourned further proceedings for a month, directing Pemra and PTA to submit a comprehensive reply on suggestions made by the applicants.

Courtesy : Dawn News



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