Pemra and satire
THE Pakistan Electronic and Media Regulatory Authority should have thought twice before sending warnings and notices to some TV channels for airing “parody” or satire that purportedly humiliates and defames political personalities and allegedly constitutes character assassination. While we hate to sit in judgment on Pemra’s competence to judge a given piece of satire, the issue involves civil liberties as much as Pakistani viewers’ right to entertainment in the midst of bomb blasts, soaring prices, traffic jams and blackouts in the heat of the South Asian summer. Satire does not amount to character assassination. It is either satire or it is character assassination; it can hardly be both. If Pemra accepts it as satire, then it must put up with it, because it has not clarified the source of the “feedback” which has made it stir. It is quite possible some VIPs and public figures might have not appreciated the often hilarious programmes of which they are the butt. But the people on the whole like them, and that should be Pemra’s yardstick rather than the annoyance and hurt some powerful public figures might have conveyed to it.
As it is, the Pakistani people’s daily fare of news on the electronic and print media hardly makes a good breakfast. No wonder, they should look forward to some laughs in the evening – provided there is electricity – to drive out the day’s load of stress. Does Pemra want to snatch away from them even these few, tension-free moments? Millions of families watch them over dinner, and there is nothing to suggest that the parodies make them change their political preferences. Besides, today it is satire, tomorrow Pemra may be tempted to tighten the noose around the media further in ways that could serve to erode the freedom the nation has achieved after decades of oppression.