ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) issued an advice to all satellite TV channels on Friday over airing of content about World Women’s Day, urging them to realise their “obligation to uphold moral values”.

The advice said all satellite channels must ensure that programmes related to Women’s Day, being observed on Sunday (March 8), conformed to Pemra laws and the Electronic Media (Programmes & Advertisements) Code of Conduct 2015.

The regulator referred to a recent decision by the Lahore High Court that allowed the observance of Women’s Day in accordance with principles laid down in Article 19 of the Constitution.

The article says: “Every citizen shall have the right to freedom of speech and expression, and there shall be freedom of the Press, subject to any reasonable restrictions imposed by law in their interest or the glory of Islam or the integrity, security or defence of Pakistan or any part thereof, friendly relations with foreign states, public order, decency or morality, or in relation to contempt of court, or incitement to an offence.”

The advice recalled that news channels had recently aired controversial content regarding the Aurat March, asking them to refrain from doing so.

“All satellite TV channels/licensees should be mindful of the fact that telecast of such controversial content is against commonly accepted standards of decency as well as religious, social and cultural norms and sentiments of public. Furt­hermore, airing of such vulgar/ inappropriate content is not suitable for viewing on TV channels.”

The National Assembly’s Standing Committee on information and broadcasting gave a unanimous ruling on Thursday that TV channels should desist from airing “indecent and controversial content” contained in slogans and banners related to Women’s Day.

The regulatory authority came under criticism from various quarters earlier this week after a venomous exchange of words between social activist Marvi Sirmed and playwright Khalilur Rehman Qamar during a talk show. The authority issued a show-cause notice to the news channel concerned for airing the altercation live.

Enraged viewers lodged complaints through the Citizens Portal and Pemra’s call centre over projection of banners carrying “indecent slogans” by television channels.

The advice issued on Friday warned TV channels that airing of such content was a violation of Section 20 (1) of Pemra (Amendment) Act, 2007, and the Code of Conduct, 2015.

“All satellite TV channels are advised to refrain from airing such comments and analysis on the subject matter which are against the provisions of laws. Anchorpersons should be careful in selection of words and gestures and avoid putting such questions or comments which are bold or explicit,” the Pemra advice said.

The electronic media regulator advised all channels to install, and utilise, a time-delay mechanism to ensure that inappropriate words were not aired during live programming.

Published in Dawn, March 7th, 2020

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