ISLAMABAD, June 2: Enraged by media coverage of the ongoing judicial crisis, the government on Saturday stopped satellite TV channels from telecasting programmes, including live talk shows and discussions, on the issue of the presidential reference against Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry.
The Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority sent a carefully-drafted letter to the managements of the private TV channels to inform them of the decision to ban TV coverage of the events related to the chief justice.
Interestingly, Pemra also issued a press release later in the afternoon regarding the award of licence to DawnNews TV in which it claimed that no ban had been imposed on live coverage of programmes.
The Pemra letter to the TV channels, a copy of which is available with Dawn, states: “No programme shall be aired which (i) is likely to encourage and incite violence or contains anything against maintenance of law and order or which promotes anti-national and anti-state attitude; (ii) contains anything which amounts to contempt of court; (iii) contains aspersions against the judiciary and integrity of the armed forces of Pakistan; (iv) maligns or slander any individual in person or certain groups, segments of social, public and moral life of the country; and is against basic cultural values, morality and good manner.”
“You are, therefore, advised to refrain/desist from relaying programmes which deviate (from) Pemra laws and Code of Conduct. Non-implementation of the directives in this respect shall invoke legal action under Pemra Ordinance 2002 and rules/regulations made there under,” says the letter carrying the signature of Pemra director-general (enforcement) Rana Altaf Majid.
In the letter, Pemra accuses TV channels of constantly violating the code of conduct. It “regrets” that some broadcasters are still engaged in showing “gruesome/gory scenes of mutilated bodies of tragic incidents of terrorism creating fear and unrest in the society which serves the purposes of the terrorists”.
It says Pemra has always believed in self-regulation and self-correction. The authority, it says, expects maturity and a sense of responsibility from the broadcasters.
“In clear disregard of the orders of the Supreme Court of Pakistan and Pemra laws and code of conduct, the broadcasters are running live talk shows and discussions on the chief justice’s reference which is sub judice.”
With apparent reference to the live telecast of the addresses of the chief justice to various bars and with particular reference to the seminar of the Supreme Court Bar Association on May 26, the letter says: “In the recent past, some channels telecast live speeches which blatantly violated Pemra’s code of conduct.”
It is worth mentioning that several federal and state ministers have also been participating in the talk shows on the CJ issue, but the Pemra letter has no mention about participants of the programmes.