ISLAMABAD, May 31: The government on Thursday decided to invoke some existing laws to curb unhindered media coverage, particularly electronic media’s live coverage of outdoor events while, Information Minister Mohammad Ali Durrani warned newspapers and private television channels against crossing what he termed ‘legal limits’.
Addressing a news conference here on Thursday, Mr Durrani made it clear that the government was annoyed over the live coverage of a recent seminar at the Supreme Court in which several fiery speeches were made, punctuated with anti-government slogans.
“An element clearly violated the limits that the Constitution and the law of the land put on every citizen about protecting the honour and respect of the judiciary and the armed forces,” he said, indicating that such moves warranted action.
The minister did not specify the possible actions which the government intended to initiate but warned that Pemra laws, especially the ones about controlling the live coverage of events, would be applied.
Information ministry officials said the government, while using some Pemra laws, was planning to make it mandatory for televisions channels to seek prior permission for live coverage of outdoor events. If applied strictly, the government may restrict all live coverage, particularly of events like opposition rallies or events relating to the judicial crisis.
A government petition, pending in the Supreme Court, criticises the slogans raised at the seminar by lawyers.
“The events of the past two months have brought into sharp focus the issue of freedom with responsibility and a matter of concern for everyone within the government or outside it,” the information minister said.
He said that the judicial issue, which required a judicial verdict, had been politicised to the extent that the Supreme Court’s own directives were also not adhered to.
At one stage Mr Durrani got emotional and said: “The armed forces of Pakistan have … embraced martyrdom whenever the country faced any threat. Be it an ordinary soldier or a general, the commitment to the defence of Pakistan is immeasurable.
“We cannot, therefore, let the defenders of our frontiers be maligned and defamed,” the minister said.