ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) on Thursday issued a prohibition order to all satellite news channels barring the broadcast and repeat broadcast of speeches, interviews and public addresses by proclaimed offenders and absconders on national television.
Pemra also barred the broadcast of any sort of debate on the possible outcomes of sub-judice matters.
Although the order came after speeches by former prime minister Nawaz Sharif were aired on national television, Pemra referred to a complaint by an individual, Mohammad Azhar Siddique, against the airing of speeches by a proclaimed offender.
The regulator referred to its own directive made in October 2019, and said that Pemra has already directed all satellite television channel licensees to form an in-house committee to ensure compliance with the Electronic Media Code of Conduct 2015.
Pemra referred to Supreme Court decisions made in 2016 and 2019 and warned that any channel that fails to comply with the authority’s directives will face action under sections 29 and 30 of the Pemra Ordinance, which includes the imposition of fines and the suspension of the licence.
Pemra has ignored SC directives and did not issue notices to any channels airing Sharif’s previous speeches recently.
The notice issued on Thursday referred to the Pakistan Law Digest 2016, Karachi 238, which states that a proclaimed offender or absconder is not legally entitled to enjoy the privileges that an ordinary citizen enjoys, and an absconder is normally not supposed to enjoy certain rights.
The SC in 2016 had observed that there were 59,267 absconders in the country and they were likely to be enjoying facilities available to ordinary citizens such as banking services, property transfers, physical movement, obtaining SIM cards and so on.
The court stated: “If they have been enjoying such rights then the purpose and object of declaration of one as absconder/proclaimed offender never served its objective nor would so, if allowed to continue in the hearts of the files only.”
Published in Dawn, October 2nd, 2020