April 29th, 2021
By Hamid Riaz
The Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) has issued an “advice” to all electronic media outlets in Pakistan warning them against airing fake or speculative news about high-level government consultation including cabinet meetings.
The single-page order invokes clause 4(1) of the Pakistan Media (Programming and Advertisement) Code of conduct, 2015 to establish PEMRA’s jurisdiction of the matter. The clause states that “News, current affairs and documentary programs shall present information in an accurate and fair manner”
The advisory asserts that broadcasters air “speculative and unauthentic news attained from informal sources which are generally devoid of facts” about official meetings thus becoming complicit in “spreading fake news and confusion in the viewers” which is against the above-mentioned clause of the Media code of conduct hence forcing PEMRA to issue this advisory.
PEMRA has asserted that TV channels should solely rely on briefings presented by the “Federal Minister of Information and Broadcasting or any other cabinet member” instead of relying on informal sources. The advisory also threatens media organizations with “legal action” if they fail to comply with it.
The Association of Electronic Media Editors and News Directors (Aemend) and the journalist community at large as slammed this notification calling it an attempt to censor the media. In a statement released to the Media Azhar Abbas, president of Aemend, has called PEMRA a “tool of censorship”.
“Aemend is of the firm view that if there is news concerning the proceedings and decisions of the federal cabinet, and official circles decline to say anything on record, it is the media’s responsibility to report on matters of public interest. In addition, at times senior government officials themselves provide information on cabinet proceedings while requesting anonymity,” asserts the statement.
Additionally, while speaking to Voicepk.net Abbas hinted that the statement is only the beginning of Aemend’s response to PEMRA’s attempt to censor media networks.
“I personally think that this advisory is beyond PEMRA’s scope as a regulatory body. It is clear that PEMRA is being used for political purposes. This is not the first time they have sent out a controversial advisory to media networks there is a whole series of them,” states Mazhar Abbas, a senior analyst associated with the Geo news network. Mazhar also states that instead of imposing blanket bans on coverage PEMRA should look at fake news on a case-to-case basis.
“This notification proves that as journalists we should demand that PEMRA be disbanded for good in the broader interest of Pakistan’s media industry,” concludes Mazhar.