–Media body questions ‘unusual haste’ regarding ban on anchorperson
LAHORE: Anchorperson Kashif Abbasi was allowed to resume to his talkshow, Off the Record, after a brief ban by the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) as a result of an unconditional apology by the host channel and the anchorperson for unintentionally hurting the repute of state institutions.
The show was banned for 60 days after Federal Minister Faisal Vawda brought an army boot in the show to mock the opposition parties and subsequently attracted a two-week TV ban on the orders of the prime minister.
The prime minister has also restricted the federal minister from appearing on any talk show for the next two weeks, said PM’s Special Assistant Firdous Ashiq Awan in a tweet.
“Prime Minister Imran Khan has demanded an explanation from federal minister Faisal Vawda for his behaviour in a private channel’s talk show,” Awan added. “The prime minister has restricted Faisal Vawda from appearing on any talk show for the next two weeks.”
On Tuesday night, Vawda appeared on Abbasi’s show alongside PPP Central Punjab President Qamar Zaman Kaira and PML-N Senator Javed Abbasi, during which he used a boot to ridicule the opposition parties for voting in favour of the recently amended Army Act.
The next day, as criticism poured in from opposition leaders as well as people on social media, Vawda said that Prime Minister Imran Khan was “not happy” over his action. Appearing in another talk show in the evening, he took the responsibility of the incident but made it clear to anchor that he would not apologise for bringing the boot to a live TV show.
After the announcement of two-month ban on Abbasi, many questioned the harsh punishment meted out to the anchorperson. They said the decision to bring the boot to the show was taken by Vawda, but he got away with it without any serious repercussions and that anchorperson was being treated as a scapegoat.
The minister should have been banned from TV instead of the journalist because the latter was not responsible for the former’s action, an editor who works in a national daily commented.
In a statement, the Association of Electronic Media Editors (AEMEND) and News Directors strongly condemned the decision and questioned as to why the prohibition order was issued late at night.
“This unusual haste, where neither the channel nor the anchor was given a chance to explain their position, shows that PEMRA acted with malafide intent,” it stated.
It also questioned why PEMRA, instead of asking the government to take action against the sitting minister who performed a “questionable act”, instead banned the show and anchor even though the latter had never endorsed the action.
“AEMEND believes the decision is against the fundamental right to a fair trial under Article 10A of the constitution. It is a direct attack on the freedom of expression guaranteed by the Constitution,” read the statement.
PEMRA BANS ABBASI:
According to the media regulatory body, during the programme under discussion, one of the panelists (Vawda) “performed [a] very unethical act” while starting his arguments on the subject being discussed.
“Subsequently, arguments made by Mr Vawda were not only extremely frivolous and derogatory but also an attempt to debase a state institution,” the notification dated Jan 15 read.
“Whereas, role of programme host Mr Kashif Abbasi was quite unprofessional who actually did not intervene or stopped (sic) that unethical act performed by one of the panellists during a live show rather took the entire incident casually and kept smiling/cherishing such occurrence,” it said, adding the media body was taking this action under Section 27(A) of the Pemra Ordinance 2002 as amended by Pemra (amendment) act 2007.
Section 27(A) of the ordinance states: “Broadcasting or re-broadcasting or distributing any programme or advertisement if it is of the opinion that such particular programme or advertisement is against the ideology of Pakistan or is likely to create hatred among the people or is prejudicial to the maintenance of law and order or is likely to disturb public peace and tranquillity or endangers national security or is pornographic, obscene or vulgar or is offensive to the commonly accepted standards of decency.”
Subsequently, the media regulatory body said that Abbasi’s appearance is also banned for the 60-day period. According to PEMRA, Abbasi cannot conduct his show, appear on his channel or any other television channel as a guest/analyst or expert.
PEMRA said the content aired during the live programme “appears to be a willful attempt to debase and demean a state institution by dragging it unnecessarily in a debate”.
“The act of the host is also in violation of clauses 3(l)(e,j), 4(7)(b), 4(10), 5, 13 and 17 of Electronic Media (Programmes and Advertisements) Code of Conduct, 2015, read with Section 27(a) of Pemra Ordinance 2002 as amended by Pemra (Amendment) Act 2007,” the notification stated.
As per the regulatory body, in case of non-compliance by the television channel, action can be taken under PEMRA laws “which may result in suspension/revocation of satellite TV channel conferred to M/s ARY Communication Pvt. Ltd. [ARY News]”.