Pemra asks channels to exercise caution | Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Pakistan Press Foundation

Pemra asks channels to exercise caution

Pakistan Press Foundation

ISLAMABAD: Following the ISPR’s sharp reaction to MQM chief Altaf Hussain’s fiery speech on Thursday night, the Pakistan Elec­tronic Media Regula­tory Authority (Pemra) issued on Friday show-cause notices to 14 private TV channels and barred all channels from airing “inflammatory content”.

After Mr Hussain’s speech that followed explosive allegations levelled by a Karachi police officer, ISPR Director General Maj Gen Asim Bajwa responded by saying that the MQM chief’s outburst against the military was intolerable and warned that legal action could be initiated against him.

“Altaf Hussain’s speech on TV containing remarks about army & its leadership was uncalled for and disgusting,” the military spokesman said in the first of a series of four tweets on the matter.

“Such reference to army or its leadership as reaction to arrest of criminals, who may have links with any political party, won’t be tolerated. Irresponsible remarks and using media to incite the people of Pakistan to rise against the State will be pursued legally. Pakistan Army and LEAs will continue to execute operations as assigned to them (sic),” he said in messages posted on his Twitter account.

Then, on Friday evening, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting wrote to Pemra, asking the regulator not to allow the live broadcast of “hate speech” by political leaders — a barely veiled reference to Mr Hussain’s tirade a day earlier.

The ministry said the government noted with concern the hate speech of a political leader, telecast live by most private TV channels on April 30.

ISPR chief takes exception to Altaf Hussain’s outburst “Pemra management may invoke Section 27 of Pemra Amendment Act-2007, whereby broadcasting or re-broadcasting any programme which is likely to create hatred amongst the people or is prejudicial to the maintenance of law and order or is likely to disturb public peace and is offensive, shall not be allowed by the authority,” the information ministry told Pemra.

Even though the MQM chief offered to apologise for his remarks on Friday night, Pemra issued show-cause notices to 14 channels and also decreed in a separate advice to all TV channels —issued under Section 27 of the Pemra Ordinance — which restrains them from airing any programme, speech or interview likely to create hatred against the country, judiciary and the armed forces or that is prejudicial to the maintenance of law and order or is likely to disturb public peace or is against national security.

The state machinery whirred into action within a mere 24 hours to supplement the reaction of the army, which is in sharp contrast to the government’s reaction when another leading TV channel accused the military and intelligence agencies of attempting to assassinate one of its anchors.

Despite a formal complaint by the Ministry of Defence against Geo TV in April last year, the information ministry remained silent over the matter on the grounds that it could not interfere in such matters.

On May 21 last year, Information Minister Pervaiz Rashid said that Pemra, being an autonomous body, had complete autonomy to resolve all issues relating to its domain, including the Geo TV case. “Pemra is an independent body and the government does not want to interfere in its matters,” he had told reporters.

However, Friday’s letter came from the information ministry and resulted in immediate action against the 14 channels that broadcast Mr Hussain’s speech. All channels were also warned to ensure a time-delay mechanism to avoid the telecast of undesirable material.