ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Elec­tronic Media Regulatory Auth­ority (Pemra) has issued a show-cause notice to NewsOne, a private TV channel, for airing ‘unethical’ remarks about the performance of a federal minister during a talk show.

However, even before the legal formalities were completed and a show-cause notice was issued to NewsOne on Friday for airing ‘derogatory remarks’ about Minister for Commun­ications Murad Saeed ‘without any editorial check’, the channel had reportedly been taken off air by cable networks.

Broadcasters and journalists as well as the Pakistan Peoples Party have expressed concern over the ‘unilateral’ action taken by the authorities.

The remarks were made when guests were discussing performance of the Ministry of Communications, which ranked first among the 10 best performing federal ministries according to the prime minister who awarded appreciation certificates to the ministers at a ceremony on Thursday.

Pemra said NewsOne had aired a show, “G for Gharidah”, on Thursday at 10.05pm where the anchor and panelists had questioned the decision to award the top honour to minister Saeed and made remarks insinuating factors behind the award other than the ministry’s performance. The notice said such “unprofessional/demeaning remarks” went on air without any editorial control or time delay mechanism in place. It said airing such remarks “raises serious concerns on the performance of channel’s editorial policy and gate-keeping tools being adopted/practised”.

The notice also referred to the violation of Pemra Ordinance, clauses of the Electronic Media Code of Conduct, 2015 and the orders of the Supreme Court in a 2018 suo motu case.

It directed the top management of the channel to reply in writing within four days (by Tuesday) as to why legal action, including a fine, suspension and revocation of licence, along with other measures, should not be initiated against the channel.

While several cabinet members took to social media against the show, but Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry tried to pitch in his idea for the need to establish a media regulatory body.

The action against the TV channel drew criticism from representative associations of broadcasters as well as journalists. The Pakistan Broadcasters Association (PBA), while demanding immediate restoration of the channel, condemned “this practice of taking unilateral action against media houses without following the laid down legal and lawful procedures”.

The PBA said: “Such unilateral and unlawful actions seriously threaten freedom of expression.”

Also, the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists condemned Pemra for issuing show-cause notice and suspension of transmission of NewsOne channel.

While expressing concern over the closure, Pakistan Peoples Party chai­rman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari called it a ‘dictatorial attitude’ to impose sanctions on media outlets in response to criticism. “If the ban on news channel for alleged insulting words was correct, then Imran Khan’s insulting statements should also be banned under the same principle,” he said.

Published in Dawn, February 13th, 2022

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