The Lahore High Court (LHC) issued notice to the Pakistan Electronic and Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) on Tuesday, seeking its reply on a plea challenging a notification wherein television channels had been directed to refrain from airing "objectionable dramas" and intimate scenes.
The plea, filed by a private media company, referred to an October 21, 2021 notification issued by the Pemra, stating that all television channels, including those with landing rights in the country, should not air "objectionable dramas/content based on indecent dressing, caressing, bed scenes and gestures, sensitive/controversial plots and unnecessary detailing of event(s)”. The notification added that such content was "highly disturbing, distressing for the viewers and against the commonly accepted standards of decency".
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“Hugs/caress scenes/extramarital relations, vulgar/bold dressing, bed scenes and intimacy of married couple are being glamourised in utter disregard to Islamic teachings and culture of Pakistani society,” the media regulator said. It directed all satellite television channels to "refrain from airing caress/hug scenes in dramas and properly review the content of the dramas through in-house monitoring committees and edit/amend the same by giving due consideration to above reservations and apprehensions of the viewers".
In the plea taken up by the LHC's Justice Jawad Hassan on Saturday, the petitioner contended that Pemra's notification was "illegal" and "contrary to the ethos of the Pemra Ordinance 2002". It argued that Pemra had no authority to issue directions such as those mentioned in the notification to television channels, and that the media regulator's move was based on "malafide, ulterior motives" and was in "sheer violation of the fundamental rights of the petitioner".
The petitioner said the issuance of the notification was indicative of the "sick mentality" of Pemra authorities and termed the directives "discriminatory".
Moreover, "the impugned advice has been passed without any prior discussion with the stakeholders or the affectees of the advice [and] therefore, is violative of the article 10-A of the Constitution," the petitioner argued in the plea, praying the court to declare the notification invalid.
It further requested the court to restrict the Pemra from taking any action against the petitioner till the issuance of a verdict on the plea and "the operation of the impugned advice" also be suspended until then.
The Pemra and the media's regulator's operations and broadcast media general manager, Muhammad Tahir, have been nominated as respondents in the plea.
Seeking a reply from the Pemra on the plea at the next hearing, the court appointed Barrister Ahmed Pansota as the amicus curiae in the case.