The PPP government, despite its commitment — on paper, at least — to defend media freedom, appears in practice to be following the model laid out by a dictator. A new amendment in the Pemra Ordinance, proposed in a bill tabled in the National Assembly, would prevent any discussion being aired by television channels on cases that are still before the courts. The PPP government had also retained two of the clauses introduced by former president Pervez Musharraf in his emergency measures of Nov 3, 2007. The first of these, barring the airing of footage of suicide bombings, terrorists or the bodies of victims, as well as broadcasting statements supporting extremism, can be justified. But the restriction on airing content that goes against the ideology of Pakistan or “national interest” is open to many interpretations and can conceivably be used to limit free expression of all kinds. This indeed has happened in the past, with rulers repeatedly confusing “national” interest with their own.
Widening restrictions on the media is hardly desirable, as would happen if the bill seeking changes in the Pemra law is adopted. The Supreme Court ruling that all provisions laid down in Musharraf’s illegal emergency measures must also be respected. The media, meanwhile, should introduce its own code of conduct to ensure there are no ethical violations in the coverage of events such as sectarian attacks. Restrictions imposed by governments almost always have a negative impact as far as media freedom goes. We must hope, then, that the new bill does not make it through the National Assembly and that no attempt is made to introduce legislation of a similar nature in the future. The PPP must demonstrate it is genuinely committed to its comments on this issue and that it is ready to also convert words into deeds.
Source: The News