RSF assails curbs on news anchors
ISLAMABAD: A journalism watchdog has condemned a “draconian” decision by Pakistani authorities ordering news anchors not to express their opinions on air.
The statement by Reporters Without Borders (RSF), released late on Tuesday, came after Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) sent the directive to TV channels on Sunday, sparking an outcry from some of the country’s most prominent news anchors.
The statement asks anchors to refrain from commenting on matters that are under trial.
But later it adds that only “unbiased” analysts with “requisite” knowledge should be invited to speak on any subject, and warns that anchors must stick to moderating only, excluding their “personal opinions, biases and judgements on any issue”.
“It is not the media regulator’s role to dictate who can express opinions during debates, or to decree what can or cannot be said,” Daniel Bastard, the head of Reporters Without Borders’ Asia-Pacific desk, said in a statement.
“This grotesque Pemra directive not only violates journalistic independence and pluralism but even goes so far as to criminalise opinions,” he added.
“We urge Pemra’s members to recover a semblance of credibility by rescinding this order, whose sole aim is to intimidate media outlets and journalists.”
The RSF said the Pemra directive was sent after television journalists commented last week on the release of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, bailed from prison on health grounds.
Judges had “expressed annoyance” over the comments, the monitor said, adding that Mr Sharif is one of the subjects seen as implicitly off-limits.
One political analyst is being charged with contempt of court, the RSF added.