ISLAMABAD: Three PML-N MNAs have criticised the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) for failing to check the airing of ‘indecent’ advertisements by private television channels.

In a calling attention notice taken up during Friday’s National Assembly session Asiya Naz Tanoli, Rida Khan and Amra Khan sought to turn the attention of Information Minister Pervaiz Rashid toward the matter, which the lawmakers claimed was “causing grave concern” among the public.

In the notice, the MNAs said the practice was continuing despite Pemra’s active monitoring system. Speaking on the matter, Ms Tanoli said the matter has been highlighted in the past as well, but to no avail.

She insisted that some advertisements carried content that was “not acceptable” in “an Islamic, conservative society” like Pakistan’s. “[We have] certain customs which need to be protected at every cost,” she said. Ms Tanoli said commercials selling telephones, shampoos and cosmetics projected women in a manner that carried no precedent in this society.

Quoting a section from Pemra ordinance, the ministry’s parliamentary secretary Mohsin Shah Ranjah responded that the authority is empowered to act if content aired by a television channel is pornographic, obscene, vulgar or offensive to the commonly accepted standards of decency in the country.

Mr Ranjah went on to say that it was difficult to agree on a single definition of ‘decency’. “Maybe something that is indecent to me looks or sounds decent to you, or vice versa.”

He said only recently a television analyst criticised a mobile phone advertisement featuring a young woman which clearly presented local culture, but had to be stopped because of the controversy.

Mr Ranjah added: “If the entire house agrees, we can have a full-fledged debate over the definition of decency, because at the moment people have different arguments, therefore it’s difficult for the government to listen to one side and reject the other.”

Published in Dawn, August 6th, 2016

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