The Pakistan Electronic Media Regulation Authority on Monday issued directives for and warned private electronic media from airing content against the armed forces and judiciary.
"It has been observed that a few satellite TV channels are airing content which tantamounts to casting aspersions against state institutions i.e. armed forces and judiciary," the directives said, adding that airing such content violated Pemra rules, provisions of the Pemra Electronic Media (Programmes and Advertisement) Code of Conduct 2015 and the principles laid down by the courts.
The watchdog's directives detailed that even though freedom of speech and expression were fundamental rights, they were subject to "reasonable restrictions" imposed by the law in the interest of Islam, the integrity, security or defence of Pakistan, friendly relations with foreign states, public order, decency or morality, or in relation to the contempt of court or incitement to an offence.
The directives said that in compliance with the relevant Pemra laws and regulations, any entity that is granted a license by the authority should comply with its codes of programmes and advertisements and appoint an in-house monitoring committee to ensure compliance.
Content of programmes and advertisements broadcast or distributed by the broadcast media or distribution service operator should also conform to the relevant laws and provisions outlined in the directives.
"The licensee shall ensure that no content is aired which contains aspersions against the judiciary or armed forces of Pakistan," the directives said.
Furthermore, licensees should ensure that programmes on sub-judice matters should be aired in an "informative manner" and "handled objectively" and no content should be aired which could prejudice the determination by any judicial forum.
"Moreover, all satellite TV channels are further directed to ensure that an effective time-delay mechanism be put in place and an impartial and independent editorial board be constituted ... in order to ensure that their platform is not used by anyone for uttering contemptuous remarks in any manner whatsoever against any state institutions," Pemra ordered.
Otherwise, it warned that legal action under the relevant laws would be pursued in case of any violation.
It is pertinent to mention here that the Federal Investigation Agency on Sunday accused Bol anchorperson Sami Ibrahim of being "involved in spreading fake news regarding state institutions" and initiated an inquiry against him.
"He has made imputations which are glaring attempts to incite armed forces personnel to mutiny. He has attempted to create chaos in Pakistan through media while staying abroad," the watchdog had said.
The Army had also taken a "strong exception" to "intensified and deliberate attempts" to drag its name into the country's ongoing political discourse by "some political leaders, journalists and analysts", according to a press release issued by the Inter Services Public Relations on Sunday.
The military's media wing had noted that attempts to involve the armed forces and its senior leadership in the political discourse were "manifest through direct, insinuated or nuanced references made by some political leaders, few journalists and analysts on public forums and various communication platforms, including social media".