The Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) on Friday issued orders to Channel-24 to air an apology within seven days through its show Najam Sethi ke saath as penance for what the regulator described as propagation of false news about the prime minister.
The authority stated that the decision was taken following a complaint lodged by Prime Minister Imran Khan at Pemra's Council of Complaints.
The decision was taken under the terms outlined in Clause 18 of the Electronic Media (Programmes and Advertisements) Code of Conduct 2015, Pemra stated in its notification.
Although the notification steered clear of expressly mentioning the nature of the "false news" in question, it appears that the Pemra orders pertain to certain remarks made by Sethi on the premier's marital life.
The episode in question was aired on March 30. During the show, Sethi claimed that "a little bird" had told him that the prime minister had "developed differences" with the first lady.
Six days later, Sethi wrote an op-ed in The Friday Times, revealing that the premier had "formally applied to Pemra" to act against the channel "for airing a statement that allegedly defames him".
"No public figure, least of all a prime minister, can claim that his or her 'private affairs' are out of the scope of public scrutiny especially if they impinge on matters covered by Articles 62 and 63 of the Constitution of Pakistan," Sethi tweeted, quoting an excerpt from his article.
In his piece, he also mentioned that the channel has been asked "to immediately appear before its Complaints Committee and defend itself".
Today, however, upon receiving Pemra's directives, Sethi took to Twitter to question the orders, saying that the authority "did not give us (Channel-24) an opportunity to defend this statement".
Pemra's directives to Channel-24
The channel has been directed by Pemra to air an apology during the same show "besides running text scrolls to the same effect for propagating false news about [the] Prime Minister of Pakistan".
"The apology, including that in audio visual and text scroll form, should clearly refer to in its subjective context without repeating the afore-noted news item," states Pemra's notification.
The channel has also been ordered to a pay a sum of Rs1 million as fine to the authority.
In case of failure by the channel to comply either partially or wholly with Pemra's orders, the show concerned "shall remain prohibited for a period of thirty days", according to the notification.
Furthermore, non-compliance shall be construed by the authority as the channel being "willfully defiant" and measures shall then be taken to suspend and/or revoke its license.