No policy to check TV programmes, Supreme Court told
By: Nasir Iqbal
ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court was not surprised on Monday when the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) stated that the government had a policy to monitor TV programmes, especially of foreign channels, nor it had a clear definition of obscenity.
Pemra’s acting chairman Abdul Jabbar was of the opinion that obscenity or vulgarity was a relative term because a programme might appear to be vulgar to some people but not offensive to others. But the court corrected him by citing Section 20c of the Pemra Ordinance and Code of Conduct for Media Broadcasters and Cable Operators which prohibits airing of obscene, pornographic or any programme injurious to public morality and against basic cultural norms and values.
A three-judge bench comprising Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry, Justice Jawwad S. Khawaja and Justice Tariq Parvez had taken up a petition of former Jamaat-i-Islami Amir Qazi Hussain Ahmed and a letter by Justice (retd) Wajhiuddin Ahmed to the chief justice on which a notice had been issued to the Pemra chairman.
Besides, articles were also published in the print media about the airing of illegal Indian channels through cable network, obscene and vulgar dramas, immoral advertisements and entertainment segments during news bulletins on Pakistani channels and illegal CD channels by cable operators in connivance with Pemra.
The court also objected to the airing of press conferences and talk shows against the judiciary and asked the Pemra’s acting chairman to submit a comprehensive report about such programmes by August 13.
Advocate Tauseef Asif, representing Qazi Hussain, regretted that the institution of judiciary was being abused with impunity on different channels and said that Pemra should clarify the issue of landing rights of foreign channels, especially of Indian channels.
“The court is aware about programmes solely aimed at maligning the judiciary,” the chief justice observed.
The court was also critical of prevalence of vulgarity in television programmes and regretted that Pemra was acting as a silent spectator and doing nothing to prevent them. “It is the duty of Pemra to ensure that no obscene programme is aired.”
The court noted in its order that the Pemra chairman had come up with no satisfactory answer and said it could assist the organisation if it was unable to discourage the tendency of airing obscene programmes. “We can help if it concerns the public interest and public rights,” the chief justice said.
The acting chairman informed the court that Pemra monitored 54 channels round the clock and recently issued a show-cause notice to a private television channel for airing an interview of TV actor Veena Malik. But he regretted that channels did not comply with its orders.
Abdul Jabbar again failed to satisfy the court when asked to provide a list of cases where Pemra action had been stayed by courts. He only said that an appeal was pending in a court against a private channel.
The court asked him to categorize programmes with proper ratings as were done in the West so that people should know what they were watching.
Deputy Attorney General Dil Mohammad Alizai also highlighted the prevalence of parodies and caricatures of politicians in an insulting manner, but the court defended such programmes and said these were in good taste and humorous.