Govt unveils PEMRA’s fresh code of conduct
ISLAMABAD: The information ministry on Thursday formally issued a code of conduct 2015 for amendments in the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) Rules, 2009 under which broadcast media outlets have been instructed to bar hate speech from their programmes.
The notification has been issued as per the directions of the Supreme Court, which during hearing of Pemra case on Wednesday ordered the authority to issue code of conduct for media which would come into force immediately.
Talking to APP, the Code of Conduct Committee’s chairman Irfan Siddiqui – who is also the special assistant to the prime minister on national affairs – termed the code of conduct as a milestone in the electronic media’s history.
According to the notification, the licensee shall ensure that hate speech by any of its employees or any guest in a programme is not aired. “Hate speech includes any expression that may incite violence, hatred or discrimination on the basis of religion, ethnicity, colour, race, gender, origin, caste, mental or physical disability”.
The 24-point code says electronic media has been asked to ensure not to air any material that is against the Islamic values, ideology of Pakistan or founding fathers of the nation including Quaid-e-Azam and Dr Allama Muhammad Iqbal.
The media will also curb material that incites or condones ouster of a democratic set-up against the command of the Constitution of Pakistan, “provided that discussions on improvement of democracy shall constitute a fair comment”.
This includes a call to arms against the Federation of Pakistan or anything against the integrity, security and defense of Pakistan; derogatory remarks about any religion, sect, community or use of visuals or words contemptuous of religious sects and ethnic groups or which promotes communal and sectarian attitudes or disharmony.
The code also bans indecent, obscene or pornographic content, or anything that contains abusive comment, as well as on media fare that is in violation of copyrights. The code also prohibits content that is likely to incite, aid, abet, glamorise or justify violence, commission of any crime, terror or leads to serious public disorder.
It curbs material which contains aspersions against the judiciary or armed forces of Pakistan or which amounts to intimidation, blackmail or false incrimination of any person.
The code also restricts depicts behaviour such as smoking, alcohol consumption, narcotics and drug abuse as glamorous or desirable, “provided that where showing of smoking, alcohol consumption, narcotics and drug use is necessary for dramatic or educational purposes, a clear warning as to injurious effects of the same shall also be shown simultaneously.”
It orders that statements of proscribed organisations or their representatives or members shall not be aired “unless such statement is an admission which maybe in the larger public interest for exposing ideology, abuse of religion or barbarianism provided always that such broadcast does not in any way aid, abet, glorify or give excuse to their means and ways in any shape or form.”
The code of conducts also proscribes airing of unnecessary details and footages of gory scenes including bloodshed and dead bodies shall not be aired. “Content based on extracts of court proceedings, police records and other sources shall be fair and correct,” it said.
In talk shows or other similar programmes, the licensee shall ensure that information being provided is not false, distorted, or misleading and relevant facts are not suppressed for commercial, institutional or other special interests.
It also directs licensee to ensure use of proper standards of language. “Abusive or vulgar language shall be prohibited. If an abuse takes place that contains language or gesture that is considered apology worthy by the licensee and its representative, the representative must ask the guest to apologise immediately after the offense has taken place.”
The code of conduct also gives detailed guidelines televisions commercials and directs the licensee to ensure the advertisements are in conformity with the laws for the time being in force. “Advertisements shall not promote obscenity, violence or other activities harmful to human health or property,” it says.
The code also asks the licensee not to air any allegation against any person or organisation unless the licensee has credible information justifying such allegation and a fair opportunity to defend such allegation has been provided to the person or organisation against whom allegation is being levelled.
It says that the licensee shall not relay allegations that fall within the spectrum of hate speech, including calling someone anti-Pakistan, traitor, or anti-Islam. “Where hate speech is resorted to by any guest, the channel and its representative must stop the participant and remind him and the audience that no one has the authority to declare any other citizen as a Kafir or enemy of Pakistan, Islam or any other religion.”