ISLAMABAD: The chairman of the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra), Mohammad Saleem Baig, has tendered an unconditional apology in the Islamabad High Court (IHC) and expressed regret for issuing a ‘misleading’ advisory that banned appearance of television anchorpersons in other talk shows.
IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah on Oct 29 issued a show cause notice to the Pemra chief who had restricted the anchorpersons’ appearance on different television channels while referring it to the court order. Since the high court had never issued such orders, the IHC chief justice observed that the Pemra’s advisory prima facie was contemptuous.
The IHC on Oct 26 grilled Pemra’s officials for not acting against broadcasters for violating the code of conduct for them.
Subsequently, Pemra issued a directive for private media outlets in which contrary to what the court ordered, the regulator imposed a ban on anchorpersons for participating in other TV talk shows.
In the written apology, Mr Baig states, “he cannot thing of misusing and undermining the name of this Honourable court in any directive issued by Pemra, hence seek unconditional and unqualified apology and places himself to the mercy and majesty of this Honourable court”.
It further said, “if this Honourable court has construed that any act of the respondent has caused anguish and inconvenience, the same is highly regretted and for that the answering respondent [Mr Baig] offers unconditional and unqualified apology”.
Explaining the details, the Pemra chairman stated that the IHC on Oct 26 observed that Pemra was not taking action against private TV channels over “contemptuous contents” and had summoned him to explain it before the court.
Subsequently, Pemra on Oct 27 issued the said directive and there was no intention of Pemra or the answering respondent to give an impression if the restriction had been imposed by the court.
However, the reply of the Pemra chairman states, on Oct 28 Pemra had already clarified the previous advisory and made it clear that “there was no advisory to ban participation of journalists in talks shows. Moreover, there is no restriction on appearance of any number of anchors to do long duration groups marathon transmission on a special current issue on their channels while also taking other relevant guests where required/possible.”
According to his reply, Pemra issued the directive under Section 18(g) of the Pemra Television Broadcast Station Operation Regulations, 2012, which empowers it to issue directive to a licensee to comply with the guidelines and directives issued by the authority.
It further said that “the answering respondent had no intention to give any impression as if the restriction has been imposed by the Honourable court relating to participants of programmes as the said anomaly had already been rectified in clarification.”
“Even then, if this Honourable court has drawn any contrary impression same is highly regretted and the answering respondent express regret and remorse.”
He requested the court that while accepting his unconditional apology, the court might withdraw the show cause notice issued to him under the Contempt of Court Ordinance.
Chief Minallah will take up the matter on Monday (tomorrow).
Since court has also summoned the chief executive officer of BOL TV and anchorperson Sami Ibrahim for airing contemptuous programme, the court would also resume proceedings against them on the same day.
Published in Dawn, November 17th, 2019