May 9 mayhem: Pemra bars channels from giving air time to 'hate mongers, facilitators'

Ayaz Akbar Yousafzai
An outside view of the Pakistan Electronic Media and Regulatory Authoritys (Pemra) building. — Website of the Information Ministry
An outside view of the Pakistan Electronic Media and Regulatory Authority's (Pemra) building. — Website of the Information Ministry

  • Citizens have freedom of expression except in certain situations: Pemra.
  • It adds national unity should be promoted, hatemongers blacked out.
  • Broadcasters to use time-delay mechanism to ensure monitoring.

ISLAMABAD: There should be a media boycott of “hate mongers, perpetrators and their facilitators”, the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) said in its recent directive to television channels, advising them to remain “vigilant” and not give airtime to such people.

Issued on Wednesday, the Pemra notification stated that while the Constitution guarantees citizens the right to freedom of expression, there are exceptions to this right.

“As per Article 19 of The Constitution of The Islamic Republic of Pakistan, Every citizen shall have the right to freedom of speech and expression, and there shall be freedom of the press, subject to any reasonable restrictions imposed by law in the interest of the glory of Islam or the integrity, security or defence of Pakistan or any part thereof friendly relations with foreign States, public order, decency or morality, or in relation to contempt of court, [commission of] or incitement to an offence.”

It further added: “It is crucial to strike a balance between protecting freedom of speech and maintaining public order.”

Then it referred to the events of "Black Day" on May 9 — when violent protests broke out across many cities in the country following the arrest of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan.

On this day, the notification stated, “zealots of [a] political party” attacked state and public properties, endangered innocent lives, and promoted anti-state to weaken the country and state institutions, adding that caution must be exercised in this regard.

This is a terrible trend, which should be condemned, the notification stated, adding: “In the wake of aforementioned scenario, all satellite TV channel licensees are directed to remain vigilant and not to promote any hate monger, perpetrators and their facilitators inadvertently.”

Stating that national unity should be promoted, the media regulating agency directed that hatemongers be blacked out.

Planners and perpetrators of hateful violence should not be promoted on television, and violent, discriminatory content not should be broadcast, the regulator stated.

"The licensee shall ensure that nothing is contained in any programme, or an advertisement, which is prejudicial to the interests of the sovereignty and integrity of Pakistan, Ideology of Pakistan, security, friendly relations with foreign states, public order or which may constitute contempt of court, defamation or incitement to an offence or brings into disrepute the State institutions including armed forces," the notification read.

It further directed all licensees “to adhere to [the] provisions of PEMRA laws and orders of the superior courts by refraining from providing their airtime to such individuals who propagate hate speech and provoke public sentiments against the Federation and State Institutions.”

Moreover, the notification stated that all broadcasters must make use of an effective time delay mechanism to ensure effective monitoring of the content being aired live.

“No licensee shall broadcast any live programme unless there is an effective delaying mechanism put in place in order to ensure effective monitoring and editorial control in conformity with this Code.”