‘Absence of consensus code behind misuse of freedom of expression’
ISLAMABAD: Failure of Pemra and the Pakistan Broadcasters Association (PBA) to reach a consensus on the code of conduct for regulating the electronic media was one of the main reasons for unchecked broadcast of material by some private TV channels with some TV anchors indulging in unethical practices in the name of freedom of expression, the panel of a National Assembly committee was informed on Wednesday.
The subcommittee of the National Assembly Standing Committee on Information and Broadcasting met the top management of the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) to learn the reasons for delay in the implementation of the code of conduct.
The subcommittee headed by Imran Zafar Leghari was constituted to determine the reason for the lack of proper implementation of the code of conduct.
The meeting was informed by Pemra Chairman Absar Alam that there was a difference of opinion on the code between Pemra and the PBA.
Pemra officials informed the delegation about hearings in the Supreme Court and said that the PBA had first announced that they would self-regulate the content but within a few months even the court noticed that there was no regulatory mechanism.
However, following strict directives from the apex court in August 2015 the PBA agreed to abide by the code of conduct finalised by Pemra.
“When Pemra started to implement the code by regulating the content at television channels they went to court and obtained stay orders,” Mr Alam told the committee.
Arifa Khalid Pervaiz, an MNA of the PML-N, directed Pemra to regulate some anchors who she said were toeing certain lines “only to defame the government through false allegations and even calling for forced dissolution of the elected government”.
While expressing support for Pemra for the implementation of the code, Talal Chaudhary, another PML-N legislator, said that some anchors were misusing the freedom enjoyed by the media.
“Our party believes in the freedom of expression and has always lauded media for their struggle against military dictators but there have to be reasonable restrictions as given in the law,” he said.
Talal Chaudhary said they supported journalists on the issue of their salaries owed by BOL channel.
The Pemra chief said that the media in the country had achieved the freedom of expression after rendering sacrifices, but some anchors now were making fun of it and pursuing their own agenda.
The members of the subcommittee said that some anchors held dual citizenship and they seemed to have limited stakes in Pakistan, therefore they were talking against the Constitution of Pakistan.
None of the three members of the subcommittee identified any anchor.
Meanwhile, Mr Alam suggested that parliament and the courts could take notice of any anti-state remarks made on television.
The subcommittee decided to summon television channel owners to seek explanation for the statements issued in support of martial law by an anchor.