CJ takes suo moto notice of obscene TV shows, internet sites
By: Ansar Abbasi
ISLAMABAD: Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry has taken notice of the applications filed by former Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) amir Qazi Hussain Ahmad and retired judge and PTI leader Justice Wajiuddin against growing vulgarity and obscenity in the society through electronic media, illegal Indian channels, cable network and internet.
Following the complaints from the two respected public figures, the Human Rights Cell of the apex court, following CJ’s direction, sought views from Chairman Pemra and Chairman PTA, both of whom, however, had given routine bureaucratic responses without any concrete assurance that the menace would effectively be checked and controlled.
In case of Pemra chairman, the judiciary has been subtly held responsible for blocking the so-called Pemra’s efforts to check obscenity and vulgarity. In his response to the Supreme Court, Chairman Pemra Dr Abdul Jabbar wrote: “The local market is flooded with smuggled and pirated CDs, DVDs, decoders, dishes and cards, which are proliferating obscenity through broadcast media and distribution service. On its part, Pemra took action against distribution and sale of illegal decoders and seized the equipment of Zee TV package. This action was challenged in the Lahore High Court (LHC) and the court was pleased to suspend the seizure of Pemra.
Consequent to which Pemra had to return the equipment. Nevertheless, Pemra has not stopped its efforts in this regard….Then the Pemra chairman conveyed to the SC: “It may kindly be appreciated that Pemra cannot fully eradicate this menace and it will only be possible with coordinated efforts of all other relevant agencies as well.”
The Pemra chairman informed the SC that a detailed code of conduct for programmes and advertisement had been provided whereby no programme or advertisement was to be aired that was obscene, vulgar, indecent or against the cultural values. “As far as foreign contents are concerned, under the announced government policy, a maximum of 10 percent of foreign contents are allowed to be shown by the TV channels. However, these foreign contents must comply with the local laws and code of conduct.”
The Pemra chairman assured that the complaints of Qazi Hussain Ahmed and Justice Wajih would be taken up with the stakeholders, Pakistan Broadcasters Association and Cable Operator Association, and referred to the action taken by the Pemra against the violators.
There is no mention in Pemra chairman’s reply as to how blatantly the vulgar and indecent contents are aired. Despite Qazi Sahib’s specific mention about illegal Indian channels (Sony and Star Plus) being shown unlawfully by the cable operators, it has also been conveniently ignored by the Pemra chief as such channels (with fake names or their own) are still viewed in many parts of the country.
The Pemra chairman talked of “Categorical instructions”, “notices” and “warnings” to the violators but did not come up with a categorical answer about the extent and gravity of the menace. He informed the SC that during the last financial year a total of 713 cable TV networks were seized for airing indecent/obscene contents and airing of illegal TV channels, whereas 5 cable TV network licences were revoked or cancelled.
Regarding the DTH (direct to home) licencing, the chairman Pemra said that the authority had cancelled the bids of the two companies, which were the successful bidders but had failed to deposit the licence fee within given and even extended time.
He said that a summary had been moved to the federal government for a policy decision regarding grant of three DTH licences through fresh bidding.
In his response regarding the misuse of internet, the PTA chairman admitted that in the present situation, Pakistan could not stop the appearance of blasphemous and pornographic material as the present filtration system, installed at the operators end, had limited capabilities with maximum capacity to block around 500,000 web links.
He said that the PTA had received a list of around 779,000 porn website links from one person alone. The chairman PTA said that in view of the technical constraints and inability of completely blocking of such websites due to limited resources, the PTA had approached the ministry of information technology and had adopted the strategy to block the most viewed pornographic websites.
“Up till now a total of 15,756 website links (including blasphemous and pornographic) have been blocked.”He informed the Supreme Court that around 4.2 million websites (i.e. 12 percent of the total websites) were porn and the number was increasingly on an hourly basis.
In his application to the CJP, Qazi Hussain Ahmad, who is also the chairman of Qaumi Milli Yakjehti Council, has sought the intervention of the chief justice to check obscenity and vulgarity while referring to a resolution recently adopted by 24 top religious leaders and scholars.Justice (R) Wajihuddin has also invited the attention of the CJ to the same issue by focusing on newspaper columns written by different writers.