ISLAMABAD, Nov 12: President Gen Pervez Musharraf on Monday told the Ministry of Information to allow only those private television channels to broadcast their programmes which agreed to abide by the new Code of Conduct laid down by the Pakistan Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra).
The president was presiding over a high-level meeting held to review the situation arising out of blocking of private TV transmissions on November 3.
The president said that although he welcomed criticism and was a firm believer in the freedom of the media,, he had to take action to check rising vulgarity in TV programmes and ‘defamation by design’ of government functionaries.
He said that had everyone behaved responsibly, the government would have had no problem with the independence of media.
Minister for Information Muhammad Ali Durrani briefed the meeting on his talks with office-bearers of the Pakistan Broadcasting Association and the demands put up by them.
Minister of State Tariq Azeem, Information Secretary Syed Anwer Mehmood, President’s spokesman Maj-Gen (retd) Rashid Qureshi and other officials attended the meeting.
Mr Azeem told Dawn that the issue was now between Pemra and TV channels which needed to follow rules and regulations and a certain code of conduct.
“TV channels can resume their transmissions if they pledge not to indulge in deliberate defamation,” the minister said, adding that criticism of the armed forces and judiciary would not be tolerated.
The minister said that TV channels would have to avoid showing gory scenes and discourage obscenity to get their transmissions resumed.
Responding to a question, he said that TV channels had earlier held out an assurance that they would voluntarily enforce a certain code of conduct. “But so far they have not come up with their own code of conduct,” the minister said.
He said that rumours spread by certain TV channels about the house arrest of the president caused the stock market to crash on Nov 5 and rumours like these could not be allowed to be aired by TV channels.
“How can you broadcast such sensitive news without getting it confirmed from the government,” Mr Azeem asked.
About entertainment channels, the minister said that they also needed to be regulated to ensure that there were no vulgar scenes in TV dramas and ads and that dresses of artistes in dramas were also not improper.
When reminded of the suspension of transmissions of CNN, BBC and Al-Jazeera channels, he said the government was reviewing its policy about them.
“At times you watch highly objectionable scenes on foreign news channels such as gay marriages etc which is unacceptable in our society,” the minister said.
Similarly, he said, foreign TV channels sometimes made derogatory remarks about Islam and the people of Pakistan and government functionaries. He said Pemra was looking into these issues and would soon come up with a policy about these channels.
The government, he said, had not issued any advice to TV channels about news converge of India.
He cited an example of a recent visit by Ports and Shipping Minister Babar Khan Ghauri to India where he had gone to sign an agreement with his Indian counterpart on certain issue.
“But there was no news story on any Indian TV channel for about five hours and when Mr Ghauri asked his Indian counterpart on telephone about it, he was told that the story was yet to be cleared by the government,” the minister said
“You do not find any such thing in Pakistan but still we are blamed for every thing,” the minister complained.