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Sunday, February 26, 2012
From Print Edition
 
 

 

ISLAMABAD: Information and Broadcasting Minister Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan said on Saturday that the government did not intend to curb media freedom as democracy and media independence went hand in hand.

 

In a statement, she said the government wanted to empower the media to strengthen democracy, but the media without law and democracy could not flourish.

 

She said the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) government strongly believed in freedom of expression and the media, but the freedom must be coupled with responsibility and in conformity with societal norms.

 

“The credit of lifting curbs on the media imposed by previous dictatorial regime goes to the present government,” she added.

 

Brushing aside the impression created by a news item regarding the imposition of sanctions on media, she said Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) had always framed laws to facilitate the media but not to put curbs on media freedom.

 

She said the government was in constant liaison with the concerned stakeholders before making or formulating any policy, law or regulations.

 

“There is not a single clause in the proposed Content Regulations that may be presumed anti-media. All the media rules and regulations either framed or amended have been in consultation with the stakeholders, so how can the government contemplate to curb or muzzle the media which is its own creation and for which Pemra has been given the mandate to flourish,” the minister said.

 

She said the government witnessed a hue and cry from civil society and stakeholders on a daily basis whereby Pemra was criticised for not discharging its functions adequately.

 

She said that there was no harm if the request was made to the media to ensure balanced, objective and unbiased coverage and to preserve the sanctity of religions, sects, ethical values, morality and decency.

 

Meanwhile, the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) has rebutted a new item headlined ‘PPP set to muzzle media ahead of general elections’ that appeared in The News and daily Jang on Saturday.

 

In a press release issued on Saturday, Pemra says even though the news story was self contradictory in the detail provided therein which contained no clause that went against media or its freedom. “It’s about a decade that Pemra has been in existence and has been framing policies, rules and regulations for private electronic media that is its prime obligation,” the press release adds.

 

“One cannot criticise Pemra for performing its functions which is to offer larger framework of policy and regulations to its licensees. Nevertheless, the policies are adopted and implemented by the licensees at their own and Pemra has never intervened to the freedom of the media.”

 

The press release says Pemra witnesses a hue and cry from civil society and stakeholders as there are hundreds of complaints on a daily basis against programmes and advertisements of the broadcast media. “As a result, Pemra proposed some content regulations which would be finalised in consultation with all stakeholders. It is unfortunate that the positive endeavour of Pemra is perceived as negative or government-backed and Pemra is propagated as a martinet imposing arbitrary sanctions on the media,” it adds.

 

This is never appreciated that Pemra has been the biggest proponent of ‘self regulation’ and the massive spurt of electronic media that the country has witnessed today is result of Pemra’s media friendly policies.

 

There is not a single clause in the proposed content regulations that may be presumed anti-media. “How can Pemra contemplate to curb or muzzle the media which is its own creation and for which Pemra is mandated to flourish? It is out of the question,” the press release says.

 

“We are unable to understand criticism of this endeavour. What is the harm if Pemra requests its broadcast media licensees to ensure balanced coverage, avoid depiction of blood and gore, avoid coverage of terrorists, avoid discussion on sub-judice matters, request to install time delays in live talk shows as no abusive and unwanted content goes on air or if Pemra requests to preserve the sanctity of religions, sects, country, ethical values, morality and decency. Does it mean a curb on the media?”

 

This is all being proposed in good faith and without any prejudice to preserve the media and country’s image.

 

It’s not Pemra only, which has been proposing such guidelines, but content regulations are already framed and followed by the leading media regulators of the developed world. Comparatively those regulations are far more stringent, but none of the stakeholders cries over it as they assume their responsibility and obligations towards their society, country and people.

 

“It is good to grab readers attention towards the media by floating catchy headlines, but please the details published must have been read carefully prior to levelling allegations. We request the section of the media to exercise some prudence. If they do not have courage to appreciate Pemra’s such endeavour there must at least be no criticism,” the press release concludes.