ISLAMABAD: Terming the perpetrators of May 9 violence against state and public properties “zealots” and “hate mongers”, the electronic media watchdog has ordered all satellite TV channel licensees not to promote them or their facilitators, and refrain from providing airtime to those who “propagate hate speech and provoke public sentiments against the federation and state institutions”.

In a directive issued to the news and current affairs satellite channels, the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) also called on all licensees to ensure that coherence and national harmony are promoted and “hate mongers, rioters, their facilitators and perpetrators” are completely blacked out from the media.

“It is indeed a fact, such hate mongers, representing political outfits are abusing power against the Federation of Pakistan and state institutions by polluting innocent minds of public,” the Pemra directive said.

“This is unequivocally a very horrific trend which needs to be condemned and those involved in promoting such activities must be boycotted on media for damaging peace and tranquility in the country,” it said.

It said that during the May 9 events, “state and public properties were attacked, innocent lives were endangered and anti-state sentiments were prompted, attempting to weaken federation of Pakistan and state institutions”.

It added, “All such anti-state activities were orchestrated by the politically charged-up zealots of political party behaving largely as hate mongers to instigate stock political activists as well.”

The electronic media has been warned to ensure compliance of Pemra Code of Conduct 2015, as well the orders of apex court and refrain from providing their airtime to such individuals who propagate hate speech and provoke public sentiments against the federation and state institutions.

The directive also refers to Article 19 of the Constitution, which details restrictions on freedom of expression, i.e. anything against the interest of the glory of Islam or the integrity, security or defence of Pakistan or any part thereof friendly relations with foreign states, public order, decency or morality, or in relation to contempt of court, [commission of] or incitement to an offence.

“It is crucial to strike a balance between protecting freedom of speech and maintaining public order.” Pemra said in its directive, and asked all broadcasters to make use of an effective time delay mechanism to ensure effective monitoring of content being aired live.

Although the communique did not name any political party, it was widely believed that the strong language of the directive was aimed at workers and leaders of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI).

On May 9, violent protests broke out in many cities of the country following the arrest of the PTI chairman.

When contacted, neither the spokesperson nor Pemra chairperson responded to a query over the use of strong language agai­nst a political party and its workers.

The regulator also said that these acts were carried out with ulterior motives to damage the state and its institutions.

Published in Dawn, June 2nd, 2023

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