Pemra a rubber stamp in the hands of govt: speakers
ISLAMABAD The role of Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) came under sharp criticism at a discussion with speakers terming the authority a mere rubber stamp being blatantly used by the government for political motives.Speaking at a consultative discussion on “Ban on Sindh TV’s transmission and the myth of media freedom”, they said the government had been taking measures aimed at taking away the people’s right to know, contrary to the much trumpeted claims of freedom of the press.
The speakers said curbs on the media had led to imposition of self-censorship which did not augur well for those who wanted to see a free press in Pakistan.Sindh TV bureau chief Atta Rajpur said the channel had been operating for the last two years. On November 8, cable operators stopped airing Sindh TV’s transmission on the orders by Pemra without any prior notice or legal action. When Pemra officials were approached they said that it was because the channel did not have landing rights.
Atta said there were 15 other channels which did not have landing rights but their transmission was still going on air. Neither Pemra nor the Sindh TV have, however, explained if the reason for the ban was other than the landing rights. Haroon Rashid from BBC was of the view that the media freedom was hindered everywhere in Pakistan but the situation was worse in the tribal areas and Baluchistan region. He said the journalist who went there were said to be going on suicide missions.
Dr Pervez Hoodbhoy said that free media was as much needed in a country to flourish democratically and progress further as much a body needed eyes to see, ears to listen and tongue to speak. Asma Sherazi said the government was responsible to providing due space to the journalists and ensure their freedom of expression. She said the government had institutionalised self- censorship in media.C.R. Shamsi of the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) called upon the journalists to unite to fight for media freedom. “This fight will continue no matter how much worse the conditions become,” he added.
Matiullah Jan of US-based Internews said 19 journalists had been killed from October 2000 to October 2006, five of them in the tribal areas. He pointed out that in some of the cases the government was the prime accused, while some were killed under police custody or at the hands of terrorists. He said no progress had been made in any of the murder case as yet. Matiullah Jan said there were 68 reported cases of abduction or arrest and 77 incidents of torture against the journalists during the five years starting from October 2000. He said 112 mediapersons received threats while 35 media related properties were attacked during the same period, besides ban imposed against 20 media organisations.
About the ban on Sindh television, he said there were restrictions on some channels in the context of landing rights and re-broadcasting. He said the government would keep on allowing channels presenting entertaining programmes but would continue to put curbs on news and information channels.