The Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) has imposed a fine of Rs500,000 on Neo News for violating its law and codes by airing abusive and misogynistic remarks by writer-director Khalilur Rehman Qamar in one of its programmes earlier this year, it emerged on Friday.
The authority also issued a warning to the TV channel to strictly observe the laws and code of conduct in matters concerning gender and to adopt a strict policy in this regard.
While speaking during a talk show on Neo News on March 4 discussing the Aurat March that was scheduled to be held on March 8, Rehman had used abusive and misogynistic language against activist Marvi Sirmed, who was also a guest on the show.
He used expletives against Sirmed and termed the Aurat March slogan of "mera jism, meri marzi" (my body, my choice) as "obscene" and "vile".
Analyse: Khalilur Rehman Qamar, please sit
A number of high court lawyers subsequently filed complaints in Pemra's Council of Complaints against the programme Aaj Ayesha Ehtesham Kay Sath.
All three complainants stated that Rehman abused Sirmed for chanting the slogan mera jism, meri marzi, calling his conduct "highly objectionable" and against Pemra laws.
When the matter was taken up by the Council of Complaints in its meeting on July 9, the complainants pointed to three objectionable aspects of Rehman's comments, saying his remarks were abusive, "targeted a specific gender" and fell in the domain of hate speech.
They said the channel violated the directives issued by Pemra, a judgement of the Supreme Court and the editorial board of the TV channel, if available, failed to perform its duty properly, according to the Pemra order, a copy of which is available with Dawn.com.
They said Neo News subsequently aired an apology and did not invite Rehman in any of its programmes again.
After hearing the arguments from both sides, Pemra's complaints council noted that Rehman's comments were "abusive and gender-biased" and that the channel by airing his remarks violated the Constitution, provisions of the Pemra Ordinance, 2002, and its Electronic Media Code of Conduct, 2015.
It said in the order that the channel failed to observe an effective delay mechanism. Moreover, "the host of the programme could have employed various other methods to control the situation which were not opted at that time."
The council recommended that a fine of Rs1m be imposed on the channel and a warning be issued to it to prevent similar incidents in the future.
After considering the matter, Pemra approved imposing a fine of Rs0.5m on the channel along with a warning, according to the order.