Pakistan: Curbs on media

Pakistan silencing media’s free speech, show-cause notice to news channel for airing ‘unethical’ remarks on Minister

Islamabad: The Imran Khan government is silencing media’s free speech in the country as Pakistan’s electronic media regulator has issued a show-cause notice to a private TV channel, for airing “unethical” remarks about the performance of a federal minister during a talk show, reported local media.The Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) has issued a show-cause notice to NewsOne, a private TV channel on Friday for airing “derogatory remarks” about Minister for Communications Murad Saeed “without any editorial check”, reported Dawn.

However, even before the legal formalities were completed and a show-cause notice was issued to NewsOne on Friday the channel had reportedly been taken off air by cable networks.The action by the regulatory authority has drawn criticism from opposition parties and others. Pakistan Peoples Party, broadcasters and journalists have expressed concern over the “unilateral” action taken by the authorities. The remarks by the news channel were made when guests were discussing the performance of the Ministry of Communications, which ranked first among the 10 best performing federal ministries according to the prime minister who awarded appreciation certificates to the ministers at a ceremony on Thursday, according to Dawn.

Further, the Pakistani publication reported that PEMRA said NewsOne had aired a show, “G for Gharidah”, on Thursday at 10.05pm where the anchor and panelists had questioned the decision to award the top honour to minister Saeed and made remarks insinuating factors behind the award other than the ministry’s performance. The notice said such “unprofessional/demeaning remarks” went on air without any editorial control or time-delay mechanism in place. It said airing such remarks “raises serious concerns on the performance of channel’s editorial policy and gate-keeping tools being adopted/practised”.

The PEMRA directed the channel’s top management to reply in writing within four days (by Tuesday) as to why legal action, including a fine, suspension and revocation of licence, along with other measures, should not be initiated against the channel, according to Dawn.