ISLAMABAD: In its most jealous defence of its members against media attacks, the National Assembly unanimously passed a resolution on Wednesday demanding that television channels remove anchors airing unverified programmes against parliamentarians.
A minister’s protest against the conduct of one anchor of a private channel turned into a crescendo of complaints across party lines in general against the perceived “black sheep” and particularly against that man and demands for amends and caution by employers.
In the past, parliamentarians have often spoken about sections of the media, particularly of a fledgling electronic media, targeting politicians or particular political parties at the behest of interested quarters.
But Wednesday’s outburst, coming only 10 days before the National Assembly is to run out its five-year term, was most vocal and unified, drawing support even from Speaker Fehmida Mirza who said she could go to court, if needed, to defend the honour of the house.
A hard-hitting speech by Education and Training Minister Sheikh Waqas Akram -- who said the anchor, whose role in a controversial programme last year over another channel about alleged corruption by a son of Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry raised a lot of dust, was attacking him to serve the interests of a banned religious group opposing him -- was greeted with desk-thumping from both the treasury and opposition benches as were those from members of other parties on both sides of the aisle.
The resolution moved by the minister belonging to the PML-Q, and signed also by members of three other parties, condemned what it called “all those anchorpersons who are telecasting programmes against parliamentarians and other entities without verification of the facts but for some personal agenda or some ulterior motives or for some unlawful gains or such anchorpersons (who) have been exposed for their non-professional conduct”, and demanded that owners of the media houses concerned “expel them forthwith besides other due action”.
In an emotional moment, the education minister said he was so incensed by a “derogatory programme” of that anchor that he felt inclined to, if he could, “barge into the TV (set) and drag him out”.
The speaker twice interjected his speech to ask whether channel owners could be made responsible for the conduct of their employees and to stress the need for a responsible approach in programmes.
Lt-Gen (retd) Abdul Qadir Baloch of the PML-N called for a boycott of that anchor’s programmes.