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August 23, 2016

Pemra chief stresses editorial committee for channels

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August 23, 2016

ISLAMABAD: The Senate’s Standing Committee on Information and Broadcasting Monday came hard on the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) for its “inability to check rampant Indian immoral content, being aired on TV channels”.

The panel took exception to a complaint that Loka Virsa head Dr Fauzia Saeed was not following the directions given by the committee on payment of pension to the retired employees, and was firing Virsa employees and making contractual appointments on hefty salaries.

The committee Chairman, Kamil Ali Agha of PML-Q, grilled the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting for ignoring the code of conduct, prepared after having interaction with the stakeholders and their input.

Agha chaired the meeting here, which also had heated deliberations on Pemra barring an anchorperson from conducting his talk show and asked the regulatory body why did not it take suo moto notice of indecent content on TV channels and presenting Indian actresses as role models and playing their songs.

PPP Senator Farhatullah Babar regretted that the Supreme Court was misled on the code of conduct and the one thrashed out by the parliamentary panel was set aside and the government-prepared code was present before the apex court and notified.

PPP Senator Sassui Palijo said that submitting the ministry’s code of conduct before the apex court was intellectual corruption and recalled how some TV channels on daily basis, predicted fall of PPP government.

On this, ruling PML-N Senator Mushahid Ullah Khan contended that it should also be seen was it the domain of the committee or the Ministry of Law and Justice to prepare the code of conduct. He emphasised that the rule of law must be ensured.

Mushahid Ullah and Nihal Hashmi complained that an anchorperson had spread hatred against former president Asif Ali Zardari on the basis of concocted reports. Senator Hashmi contended that Satan was confined during the holy month of Ramazan while Pemra allowed Satans to appear on TV channels and in the race of better rating, these channels would did not care even for the national interests.

Kamil Agha and some other senators questioned how without hearing the anchorperson the ban was imposed and asked was not it a step against the media freedom and fundamental human rights, enshrined in the Constitution.

Senator Kamil Agha noted Pemra should maintain its apolitical status, while referring to suo  moto notice taken by the regulatory authority and punishment was awarded to the anchorperson.

Pemra Chairman Absar Alam gave briefing to the panel and said that  shows of different channels were subjected to ban during the holy month of Ramazan and insisted that Pemra took action where it was required.

He explained that a notice was issued after achannel's show and the matter was referred to the Council of Complaints, Sindh, and noted that the anchorperson talked insultingly and prima facie committed code of conduct violation with regard to the kidnapping of son of the Sindh High Court chief justice.

The authority chairman continued that he was summoned by the apex court, where he contended that the TV channel could not be shut down, as it involved jobs of hundreds of people. He said what could have been done when the person concerned was not ready to come for hearing.

PPP’s Rubina Khalid said that instead of the channel, an individual was punished, whereas the channel should have been banned, which would have hurt its owner, as without his nod, this show could not be aired.

Kamil Agha said there had been 216 complaints against a channel but no action was taken on this count and the recommendations of the committee were not implemented. The committee said that authority should have taken on its own.

The Pemra chairman emphasised that editorial control was imperative and formation of an editorial committee was a must. On this, the committee said that if the committee was not being made as per the law, then Pemra should initiate proceedings.