Qayyum says Pemra has no mandate to place curbs on media
ISLAMABAD, Feb 17: Attorney General Malik Abdul Qayyum says the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) has no mandate to place restrictions on media.
Addressing a press conference here on Sunday, he said he had neither supported the anti-media policies of Pemra in the past nor would he do so in future.
He said he was ready to give guidelines to Pemra for framing policies to regulate the media. He was asked to comment on a report released by the Human Rights Watch that censorship and threats against the independent media, bias in the state television and the widespread ban on live broadcasts were limiting people’s right to information as country was going to the polls.
“Recent curbs on the media prohibit coverage of election rallies, live call-ins, live talk shows, live coverage of protests, or any live broadcasts that could show the government in a negative light, severely restricting the right to free expression ahead of Pakistan’s election on February 18, 2008,” the report said.
The attorney general said that being an independent body, the Election Commission of Pakistan guaranteed free, fair and transparent elections. To ensure fair and transparent elections, the government has provided free access to foreign media and observers to monitor elections.
He said he would file a defamation suit against the Human Rights Watch for circulating a defamatory report on the organisation’s website. He said he had already served a legal notice on Human Rights Watch (HRW) over the report.
He termed the report “extremely malicious, defamatory, manufactured and baseless.” The alleged conversation mentioned in the report was clearly fabricated and a conspiracy against him, he said.
The attorney general said he reserved the right to take legal action against those who had issued the news report and those who were taking part in propaganda campaign against him.
Mr Qayyum demanded immediate removal of the recording and the news item from the HRW website and a public apology with the same degree of prominence as well as Rs300 million as damages for defamation. The attorney general claimed he had no nexus with the holding of elections and assisted the government only in legal affairs.
He said he had advised the government either to release Barrister Aitzaz Ahsan, Ali Ahmad Kurd and Tariq Mahmood or take their cases to the review board.