WASHINGTON: An international media advocacy group has urged Pakistan to reconsider the sweeping guidelines it issued recently for regulating on-air news coverage.

In a statement issued in Washington, the US-based Committee to Protect Journalists said the “sweeping nature” of the new guidelines for on-air news coverage and commentary on the nation’s television and radio channels was a cause for concern.

On Thursday, Pakistan’s Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) issued the Electronic Media (Progra-mmes and Advertisements) Code of Conduct, 2015, which became effective immediately.

The 24-point guidelines set strict limits for live coverage of ongoing security operations such as hostage standoffs and terrorist attacks.

The code mandates broadcasters to “air only such information as may be warranted by the security agency in charge of the operation”. The rules also set controls for discourse during political discussion shows, which is often heated in Pakistan; broadcasters are restricted from airing what Pemra calls those engaging in “hate speech” or denunciations of religious beliefs.

“Codes of conduct should be voluntarily developed and enforced by a country’s media industry, rather than being handed down by any government,” said Bob Dietz, CPJ’s Asia programme coordinator.

Published in Dawn, August 24th, 2015

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