PEMRA’s bans

While Irman’s coverage has been restored, another PEMRA ban on covering judges has come

The Pakistan Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) must be given credit for trying. On the same day a single bench of the Supreme Court suspended its order banning the coverage of PTI chief Imran Khan, it banned all coverage of content pertaining to the conduct of sitting judges of the High Courts and Supreme Court. PEMRA is an upholder of the establishment, it seems, for the ban on Mr Khan had come because of his speeches denigratory of former COAS Gen (retd) Qamar Javed Bajwa. Upholding his right to free speech, the Supreme Court struck that order down. The latest order may have its origins in the alleged audiotapes released allegedly involving a judge of the Supreme Court. The rumours making the rounds are that there are more recordings involving superior court judges, both nserebving and retired. This is a gag order on any discussion of such tapes, and may well represent an effort by the establishment to prevent discussion.

Unfortunately, driving that discussion, or any other, off the airwaves means that it will take place on the pages of the print media or on the social media, where it may assume a prominence and a virulence enhanced by its absence from the electronic media. The previous government faced a barrage of criticism for attempting to put both electronic and prin media media under one reghulatory watchdog. It also was strongly criticized for its attempts to clamp down on any criticism of state institutions. The present government is apparently only different in clamping down on the PTI, where the PTI has clamped down on the components of the current coalition. That the PTI behaved arbitrarily is no excuse for the present government behaving the same way, and the commonality is not just dictatorial attitudes, but an over-powerful establishment. The loopholes in the laws which give simple regulatory bodies arbitrart powers must be plugged by necessary legislation at once. Stakeholders must be consulted, in the shape of professional bodies, but the abuse must end. The whole point of media, both electronic and print, is that they reflect society as it is, truthfully. To keep them from reporting something means driving what is unreported into the murky underworld of innuendo and rumour, retailed with a wink, a nudge and a half-smile. Facts cannot be hiddden, but thet can certainly be distorted.

The Editorial Department of Pakistan Today can be contacted at: [email protected]


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