THE decision by Pemra to disallow Bol TV from broadcasting because of the ongoing investigation by the federal authorities into Axact, the parent company of Bol network, is a strange and troubling one.
To be sure, the federal investigation and the preliminary evidence that has come to light suggest Axact has much to answer for. But an investigation is not a formal legal charge and formal charges and a trial are not a conviction.
As the matter stands right now, Axact is in a world of legal trouble, but Bol is a separate entity against whom it will have to be proved that it has been funded by dirty money before formal action is merited.
In truth, Pemra’s actions against Bol do not even reflect that due process was followed. While the official notification was issued by Pemra, there is little to suggest that it acted independently — the federal government having made it clear that it had already decided that Bol should not go on air.
That deep intrusion into what is meant to be an independent regulator is surely unwelcome. Such steps set precedents and perhaps the next time government intervention may be in a more partisan and political issue.
Also read: Bol TV asked to wait for clearance of Axact
The truth of the matter is that for all of Axact’s alleged crimes, the issue of Bol is very much a part of the internecine and escalating media wars in the country. For over a year, various media houses have engaged in open warfare with each other and the Bol saga is a part of that.
Rather than reporting the news, sections of the media have been trying to create it, both publicly and, allegedly, privately putting pressure on the government to dismantle Axact and shut down Bol altogether.
In that dismal and distressing landscape, there is much for all sides to learn. The breakdown of editorial control and the dismantling of the wall between ownership and professional journalists has led to several media disasters already.
Now, with the federal authorities having demonstrated a seriousness of purpose and working without any apparent interference, perhaps the coverage of the Axact issue will be in line with journalistic best practices. Pakistan needs a vibrant and searching independent media. The media has played a positive role in pivotal times in the country’s history.
There are quality journalists and ethical owners in the industry even now. Change for the better can come quickly, if given a chance.
Published in Dawn, May 30th, 2015