ISLAMABAD: Even though the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority barred TV show host Aamir Liaquat Hussain from appearing on screen and issued orders to stop the broadcast of his show, the pugnacious host appeared on TV on Thursday night in defiance of Pemra orders.
Separately, Rawalpindi police have registered a case against Aamir Liaquat under the Anti Terrorism Act (ATA) for indulging in hate speech and threatening the life of activist and lawyer Jibran Nasir.
“Mr Aamir Liaquat shall not host any programme, or appear on TV in any manner fresh, old or repeat including (but not limited to) as a guest, analyst, reporter, actor, in audio, video beeper, promo/advertisement of his programme or in person, in any manner whatsoever... with immediate effect,” the order issued on Thursday said.
The Pemra order also restrained Aamir Liaquat from appearing and speaking on other channels.
Copies of Pemra’s decision have been sent to PakSat and the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) so that Pemra’s decision could be implemented completely and instructions have also been issued to all distribution networks and cable operators of the country.
Rawalpindi police register case against TV show host over hate speech, incitement to violence
But on Thursday night, Aamir Liaquat went ahead with his show, hurling abuse at Pemra and criticising its decision to take his show off the air. As a result, Bol TV was taken off-air in certain areas of the country, while the show was broadcast uninterrupted in other localities.
An official explained: “There have been incidents in the past where hosts whose programmes were stopped began to appear in other programmes as analysts, or made speeches in public that were covered by different channels.”
The action was taken under Section 27 of the Pemra Ordinance 2002, which allows the authority to take action against any programme, channel or person appearing on the screen without any notice.
“This section is used only to prevent a panic-like situation in society or immediately stop something that is against the Constitution,” a Pemra official said.
Apart from receiving hundreds of complaints regarding hate speech by Mr Liaquat, the authority had also been monitoring the programme from Jan 2 to Jan 24, 2017. The complaints were forwarded by the authority to its councils of complaints in Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad.
Pemra says the ban will remain effective until the respective councils make recommendations on the complaints and a decision is made based on the recommendations.
In its order, the regulator states that Mr Liaquat violated clauses dealing with the airing of material that “amounts to intimidation, blackmail or false incrimination of any person” and ensures that any “programme does not debase a person or group of persons, while prohibiting the use of abusive or vulgar language”.
Over the past several days, Mr Liaquat had been at odds with other TV anchors and social media activists, going as far as declaring a large chunk of mediapersons and civil society activists as “non-Muslims”, “infidels”, “enemies of Islam” and “Indian agents”.
Editorial: Words that wound
His tirades began following the disappearances of several activists and bloggers, but Mr Liaquat countered the criticism by personally attacking anchors and protesting activists in his programme.
Meanwhile, followers of a controversial cleric from Islamabad have decried the Pemra decision.
In a statement, Lal Masjid’s Shuhada Foundation has said that the action by the electronic media regulator was a move to please the enemies of Islam, the country and the armed forces, saying the decision had hurt the sentiments of Muslims.
In his more recent shows, Mr Liaquat took aim at Jibran Nasir, a Karachi-based activist and lawyer who has been actively raising a voice for the missing men in recent days. In an application to Morgah police on Wednesday, Mr Nasir contended that Mr Liaquat had allegedly run a defamatory and life-threatening campaign against him in several of his shows, broadcast earlier this month.
In his application to police, Mr Nasir names dozens of journalists and activists who the anchor had personally targeted without any proof whatsoever.
The complainant claimed that Mr Liaquat leveled allegations of blasphemy against him and the five disappeared activists, while glorifying the abduction of the missing activists.
Mr Nasir claimed that while levelling the allegations of blasphemy, Mr Liaquat also glorified the criminal acts of Mumtaz Qadri, a convicted terrorist.
The complainant also said that if any harm came to him or his family, Mr Liaquat, the production team of his show and the senior management of his channel should be held responsible.
Talking to Dawn, Sub-Inspector Ghulam Abbas of Morgah police said that a case had been registered and a team led by a deputy superintendent of police had been formed to investigate the case and bring the accused to justice.
In a statement, the All Pakistan Newspapers Society expressed “profound concern over the incessant trend of unscrupulous outbursts of baseless allegations and hate mongering on a satellite channel against journalists, publishers and editors of newspapers”.
While the statement did not name Mr Liaquat or his channel, it maintained that the “abusive language and hate speech… can in fact incite violence by labelling media persons as anti-Islam and anti-Pakistan, consequently putting their lives in danger.”
The statement welcomed the Pemra decision to “bar the airing of certain programmes” and urged the federal government to take immediate measures to check and stop such trends in a section of the electronic media.
In a separate statement, over 100 editors, columnists and senior journalists condemned the hate speech and incitement to violence committed by Mr Liaquat, saying it appeared that he was running this campaign against so many respected journalists out of enmity.
Published in Dawn, January 27th, 2017