Reforming PEMRA – An urgent need of institutionalization

In Pakistan it has become a fashion that government officers serving at higher positions do not respond to the citizen’s letter forgetting that they are the servants of the people who pay for their comfort in millions per month. Let me remind them what Quaid-e-Azam said about civil servants while addressing them on 25 March 1948 in Chittagong.” You have to do your duty as servants; you are not concerned with this or that political party; that is not your business…..You do not belong to the ruling class; you belong to the servants” but we have forgotten what our Quaid said and that is the reason we are suffering. It is good to see that Prime Minister has opened PM portal where public can make complaints but like other departments Prime Minister is also facing same problem due to late response of complaints and now PM is personally overseeing its functions. Since Prime Minister is working hard to bring the country out of crisis therefore everyone should help him so that he could implement his agenda. I sent a comprehensive letter to Chairman PEMRA on 16 October 2019 through email suggesting him about violations taking place by print and electronic media but never received its acknowledgement. Since it contained sound suggestions to improve the working therefore decided to write openly on the subject and hence this article
As a senior citizen of this country and having participated in the struggle in creation of this country I feel very much disturbed when some intellectuals and group of media personnel under the cover of Article 19 of the constitution say, write, speak, broadcast anything and sometimes the content is certainly not in the national interest but there is no check and everyone gets away. There are no restrictions on anyone to criticise the government on their wrong policies and failures but at the same time one has to ensure that red lines are not crossed.
Creation of PEMRA in 2002 was indeed a great step by the government to make laws and rules to ensure that freedom of speech is not misused but the rules did not deter some media houses and individuals and we witness irresponsible behaviour. Although some TV channels were fined by PEMRA but the fines were in pea nuts therefore it had no effect on them as a result violations continue unabated.Let us define Article 19 of the constitution of Pakistan. Under the article 19 of the constitution of Pakistan, 1973, every citizen will have the right to freedom of speech, freedom of expression and freedom of the press, subject to any’ reasonable restriction’, imposed by law in the interest of the glory of Islam or the integrity, security or defence of Pakistan or any part thereof, friendly nations…. That freedom has been allowed but we forget what is written in this article after subject to any “reasonable restriction” is overlooked, but no one bothers to ensure its strict implementation. Let us list some of the violations taking place under the cover of freedom of speech which binds everyone subject to restrictions.
Attacking two nation theories the basis of creation of Pakistan on Print and Electronic media, debate on founder of Pakistan, Showing Indian contents, showing Indian ads, criticising army’s role, criticising ISI. Spreading fake news, discussing army generals, Attacking judiciary, Ridiculing judges, debating on cases that are subjudice,showing disrespect to judicial system, preaching Indian culture, discussing security issues not in national interest, Live telecast of program against national interest, Inviting those people known to be anti Pakistan, inviting guests to participate in hate speech that includes any expression that may incite violence, hatred or discrimination on the basis of religion, ethnicity, colour, race, gender, origin, cast, mental or physical disability, Showing mutilated and dead bodies. highlighting crimes, inviting known controversial personalities, Derogatory remarks against defence forces, character assassination of political leaders, propagating enemy narrative, Ignoring national interest over personal interest, showing video clips of foreign news TV channels that are against Pakistan, Inviting enemy guests (From India) during talk shows to get their views
Lately some TV owners have removed certain anchors and journalists for not following code of conduct that is healthy sign. But majority of them have opened their own web based TV channels, air program and carrying out nefarious propaganda against the government, army and judiciary. PEMRA being the regulatory authority should have exerted its authority to control the spread of mini TV channels. Under which article of the constitution any private person can open his own web channel and use electronic facility without obtaining license? All those web TV channels indulge in spreading hate and criticizing the country’s premier institutions must be closed and no one should be allowed to open and operate web channel without having obtained permission. When mobile operators want to install antennas they have to obtain permission from various agencies but it is free for all even by using mobile cameras making videos and uploading on YOU TUBE. It is time that regulations are made and enforced without losing time.
Pakistan is passing through most difficult phase of history over and above we have burning issue of Kashmir where lockdown continues for over since 5 August 2019. India continues to remain hostile. It is time that government and media has to be on one page otherwise we can never muster international support, therefore there is urgent need on the part of PEMRA to control mushroom of web channels before it gets too late
We have recently witnessed Maulana Fazal- ur-Rahman’s so called Azadi march with full preparations. He has trained uniformed militia and all observed him taking salute from them; they should not have been shown on television channels as it is in violation of Article 265 of the constitution of Pakistan. It is no more a rocket science to determine whether content being shown is in national interest or not. It is also hindering development activities taking place in Pakistan; therefore it is time to regulate all those activities that do not fall in the national interest.
If the unprofessionalism continues by the national institutions than no interest of national importance will be defended. Institutionalisation of national defence in this hybrid environment is very important and institutions like PEMRA must understand and lay down the basic ground rules to execute check and balance on the unshackled media that in the garb of freedom forgets to understand responsibility.

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