ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) has warned all the private television channels to refrain from airing content against state institutions.
In a statement, the electronic media regulator directed the TV channels to avoid spreading propaganda, misinformation and disinformation against the institutions.
The electronic media regulator’s warning came in the backdrop of the ban slapped on Monday on private TV channel ARY News that aired a statement by former prime minister Imran Khan’s aide Shahbaz Gill who ‘incited the Pakistan army officers and lower rank officials to stop taking orders from their seniors.’
Immediately after his statement was aired, authorities in Pakistan suspended the TV channel which is already perceived as the mouthpiece of Imran Khan’s party Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and a staunch critic of Shehbaz Sharif’s government.
The regulator not only suspended the channels’ transmission, it also directed the private cable operators to block its transmission immediately ‘till further notice.’
FIR registered against ARY CEO, anchors
The police, meanwhile, booked CEO and owner of the ARY Group, Salman Iqbal, TV Channel’s anchorpersons, Arshad Sharif and Khawar Ghuman under ‘sedition’ charges.
The FIR has been registered at Karachi’s Memon Goth police station on the complaint of Station House Officer (SHO).
In a damage control attempt Salman Iqbal clarified his TV channel’s position. In a statement that was read out on the channel, Salman Iqbal said PTI’s Shahbaz Gil’s statement aired on his TV channel was his personal opinion and had nothing to do with the TV channel’s policy.
ARY Group has never indulged in any vicious campaign against the armed forces or the state institutions, he further clarified. The entire ARY management stands by the armed forces of Pakistan and takes pride in their contributions for the nation, it concluded.
Earlier, the state regulator had sent a formal “show cause notice” to the channel’s management, accusing it of airing “false, hateful and seditious content.”
It went on to allege that ARY News had aired comments by a spokesman for Imran Khan which were “tantamount to inciting the ranks and files of armed forces towards revolt.”
According to PEMRA, the misinformation and disinformation spread by the news, programme anchors, guests or analysts cast aspersions against the institutions.
Later, in the statement issued by PEMRA to all TV channels, the watchdog made it clear that airing of such content was in violation of the directives issued by the authority, provisions of PEMRA Electronic Media (programmes and advertisements) Code of Conduct 2015 and the principles laid down by the Superior Courts.
“… all satellite TV channel licensees are hereby directed to follow the principles laid down in the Constitution as well as the judgment of the Supreme Court of Pakistan passed in suo moto case no 28 of 2018 and the judgment of the Islamabad High Court passed in Criminal Original No 270/2019 dated 25-11-2019 and ensure strict compliance to the relevant provisions of PEMRA laws,” the statement further said.
Meanwhile, Pakistan Broadcasters Association (PBA) in a statement condemned disinformation against state institutions. The PBA has always supported freedom of expression and freedom of the media, however, it condemns any disinformation against the institutions, the statement said.
The association is working with the government and other media organizations to formulate rules against disinformation, especially the spread of disinformation on social media which is harming journalism, the statement further said.