The Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) has barred the television channels from coverage of “hate mongers, perpetrators and their facilitators” in order to maintain peace and tranquility in the country.
In its latest directives to the television channels, the regulatory body calls for ensuring the provision of right to freedom of speech and expression to citizens, but it is subject to reasonable restrictions imposed by law in the interest of the country.
“As per Article 19 of the Constitution of The Islamic Republic of Pakistan, every citizen shall have the right to freedom of speech and expression, and there shall be freedom of the press, subject to any reasonable restrictions imposed by law in the interest of the 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 contempt of court, [commission of] or incitement to an offence.”
It further said, “It is crucial to strike a balance between protecting freedom of speech and maintaining public order. Restrictions on speech during riots or situations of unrest are often aimed at preventing the escalation of violence and safeguarding the safety and well-being of the general public.”
Pemra also gave a reference of May 9 incidents when protests had erupted in various cities following the arrest of a political party’s head. During the protests, military properties were ransacked by the workers of the PTI.
It said “politically charged up zealots of political party” attacked state and public properties, endangered innocent lives, and promoted anti-state elements to weaken the country and state institutions.
Calling the incidents condemnable, the notification stated: “In the wake of aforementioned scenario, all satellite TV channel licensees are directed to remain vigilant and not to promote any hate monger, perpetrators and their facilitators inadvertently.”
The regulatory body had directed the channels to avoid promoting hatemongers, adding that planners and perpetrators of hateful violence should not be promoted on television, and violent, discriminatory content not should be aired.
"The licensee shall ensure that nothing is contained in any programme, or an advertisement, which is prejudicial to the interests of the sovereignty and integrity of Pakistan, ideology of Pakistan, security, friendly relations with foreign states, public order or which may constitute contempt of court, defamation or incitement to an offence or brings into disrepute the State institutions including armed forces," the notification read.
It also directed all television channels “to adhere to [the] provisions of PEMRA laws and orders of the superior courts by refraining from providing their airtime to such individuals who propagate hate speech and provoke public sentiments against the Federation and State Institutions.” It also advised the broadcasters to use of an effective time delay mechanism to ensure effective monitoring of the content being aired live.
“No licensee shall broadcast any live programme unless there is an effective delaying mechanism put in place in order to ensure effective monitoring and editorial control in conformity with this Code.”