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Thursday Jan 16 2020
Web Desk

Boot stunt: AEMEND calls for immediate withdrawal of ban on TV anchor

Web Desk

The Association of Electronic Media Editors (AEMEND) and News Directors has strongly condemned an order issued by the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) to take ARY News show "Off the Record" and anchor Kashif Abbasi off-air for 60 days.

In a statement to the media, AEMEND questioned 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. 

Azhar Abbas, president of AEMEND, said that PEMRA should work as an independent regulator and not become an arm of the Ministry of Information. 

"Any move by PEMRA or the government to curb media freedom will be resisted," Abbas said. 

Ammad Yousaf, secretary general of AEMEND, termed PEMRA's decision as "an indication of a bigger plan to further restrict media freedom". 

"The ban on Kashif Abbasi and his show must be lifted immediately, Yousaf said.

AEMEND has further advised anchors and producers to be "more vigilant" and not allow any such "theatrics" by guests.

Show banned

PEMRA had early Thursday issued a notification banning anchor Kashif Abbasi for sixty days for “acting unprofessionally” and "not intervening" when Federal Minister for Water Resources Faisal Vawda produced a boot as a prop during Abbasi's show, 'Off the Record'.

Vawda had appeared on the show along with Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) leader Qamar Zaman Kaira and PML-N representative Javed Abbasi. 

Vawda mocked the PML-N's 'unconditional' support for the Army Act amendment bill, saying the party was "lying down to kiss the boot".

"I am going to bring this [boot] to every talk show," he said. "This is how democratic the PML-N is. They lay down to kiss the boot," he had added.

Vawda also mocked the PML-N's election slogan, "Vote Ko Izzat Do", by changing it to "Boot Ko Izzat Do", criticising the party for deviating from its stance and lending unconditional support for the services chiefs' tenure bills.

PPP's Kaira had strongly objected to Vawda's language and said the federal minister had gone too far. He had regretted how the PTI leader had dragged the armed forces into a controversy by alleging that they had pressurised the PML-N into supporting the bill.

Both the PML-N and the PPP leaders had subsequently left the talk show in protest against Vawda's language. 

PEMRA later said the content aired during the programme had appeared to be “a willful attempt to debase and demean a state institution by dragging it unnecessarily in a debate.”

“Therefore, in view of the aforementioned reasons the competent authority decides that in the exercise of delegated powers of the authority, the broadcast or rebroadcast of the programme is prohibited with immediate effect for 60 days starting from January 6, 2020,” the regulator ruled.

The media regulatory authority further said Abbasi is also banned from appearing on TV for 60 days. During the ban, he shall not conduct his show or appear on the television channel he is associated with or any other television channel as a guest/analyst or expert.

In case of non-compliance by the TV channel, the authority shall proceed under PEMRA laws, which may result in suspension/revocation of the satellite TV channel license conferred to the television channel.