Pemra directs TV channels to not air propaganda in opposition to establishments

ISLAMABAD/KARACHI: Pakistan Electronic Media Regulation Authority (Pemra) on Tuesday issued fresh directives to warn all the satellite TV channels, specifically news and current affairs of legal action for either running a ‘propaganda’ campaign or spreading ‘misinformation and disinformation’ against the state institutions.

According to Pemra, the directives were issued in continuation to the earlier ones which were issued by the authority from time to time for stopping the ‘propaganda, misinformation and disinformation’ against the state institutions.

The media watchdog said a trend had been observed on satellite TV channels wherein some of their News/Programme anchors, guests/analysts were indulged in spreading misinformation and disinformation against the state institutions without any cogent justification.

“Such trend on channels not only tantamount to casting aspersions against state institutions, but also a planned propaganda campaign against the state institutions,” said Pemra while terminating the airing of such content ‘violation of the directives issued by the Authority, provisions of Pemra Electronic Media (Programs and Advertisement) Code of Conduct 2015 and the principles laid down by the superior courts.

“It noted that freedom of speech and expression was the fundamental right of every citizen as per Article 19 of the Constitution, however, “this right is subject to restrictions imposed by law in the interest of glory of Islam or the integrity, security or defence of Pakistan, or any part thereof, friendly relations with foreign states, public order, decency or morality, or in relation to the contempt of court [Commission of] or incitement to an offence.”

Pemra asked all satellite TV channel licenses to follow the principles laid down in the Constitution as well as judgment of the Supreme Court of Pakistan passed in suo moto case No. 28 of 2018 and the judgment of the Islamabad High Court, Islamabad passed in Criminal Original No. 270/2019 dated 25-11-2019 and ensure strict compliance to the relevant provisions of Pemra laws including section 20(f) of Pemra Ordinance 2002 as amended by Pemra (Amendment) Act 2007, and others.

It reiterated its direction to all satellite TV channel licenses about the implementation of an effective time delay mechanism, and the formation of an impartial and independent editorial board in order to avoid using their platform by anyone (employee or guest) for spreading misinformation, disinformation and propaganda against state institutions.

“In case of any violation observed, legal action under Sections 27, 29, 30 and 33 of Pemra Ordinance 2002 as amended by Pemra (Amendment) Act, 2007 shall be initiated,” Pemra warned.

Meanwhile, a statement issued in Karachi on Wednesday by Pakistan Broadcasting Association (PBA) said that the PBA has always supported freedom of expression and independence of media, says a press release. The PBA, however, condemns disinformation in all its forms.

The PBA is engaged with the government along with other media bodies in defining rules to deal with disinformation.

The PBA strongly believes that responsible and independent journalism is being damaged by the spread of disinformation, especially on social media.

The PBA is willing to sit with all media bodies, other stakeholders and the government to frame rules of conduct to discourage disinformation especially on social media, in the interest of safeguarding responsible and credible journalism and free speech.

“Social media is a powerful tool, but the need of the hour is to encourage responsible use of social media and discourage its misuse in spreading disinformation, which is damaging not only the country’s social fiber and its institutions but also causing great unrest and instability besides encourage intolerance and irresponsible speech,” the statement added.

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