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December 4, 2017

Media has underplayed SC’s timely warning against fanning flames

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December 4, 2017

ISLAMABAD: The media in general and TV channels in particular either ignored or underplayed the Supreme Court’s timely warning about how irresponsibly the media is fanning the flames and pushing out hate propaganda for ratings.

In its written order of the 30th Nov hearing of suo moto case regarding the Faizabad sit-in, the Supreme Court discussed at length about the irresponsible role of the media and its serious consequences on the society.

The SC lamented, “It is a matter of grave concern when inflammatory, provocative or abusive statements are broadcast as these have the effect of fanning the flames.” Although, the media does not appear to be interested in paying heed to what the SC has said, the relevant part of the said order is reproducedbelow for the interest of readers: “The Islamabad Police report discloses that media channels were providing live coverage as a consequence whereof the extreme measure of taking them off the air was resorted to. It was further stated that it becomes difficult for the state to maintain its writ when programs with inflammatory content and inciting violence are broadcast. These are undoubtedly legitimate concerns. When violence is perpetrated against the state and destruction of public and private property is broadcast without condemnation of the violence, or by justifying it, not only is a platform provided to advocate their cause but also encourages them to resort to violence. Freedom of speech and expression as well as freedom of the press is enshrined as a fundamental right (Article 19 of the Constitution), but the same provision curtails it when it is used to undermine “the glory of Islam or the integrity, security or defence of Pakistan... or morality, or in relation to contempt of court, commission of or incitement to an offence.” The electronic media is governed by the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority Ordinance, 2002 (“the Ordinance”) and every broadcaster holding a licence is required to, “ensure preservation of the sovereignty, security and integrity of Islamic Republic of Pakistan” (clause (a) of section 20 of the Ordinance) and to, “ensure preservation of the national, cultural, social and religious values and the principles of public policy as enshrined in the Constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan” (clause (b) of section 20 of the Ordinance). The referred to Principles of Policy also mandate:

“...enable the Muslims of Pakistan, individually and collectively, to order their lives in accordance with the fundamental principles and basic concepts of Islam and to provide facilities whereby they may be enabled to understand the meaning of life according to the Holy Quran and Sunnah.”

“Another stipulation is to, 'ensure that all programmes and advertisements do not contain or encourage violence, terrorism, racial, ethnic or religious discrimination, sectarianism, extremism, militancy, hatred...' (clause (c) of section 20 of the Ordinance). If any broadcast media violates the aforesaid provisions it constitutes an offence under section 33 of the Ordinance which is 'punishable with a fine which may extend to ten million rupees' for the first offence, and its licence may also be revoked.

“6. It is a matter of grave concern when inflammatory, provocative or abusive statements are broadcast as these have the effect of fanning the flames. There are also those who are pushing out hate propaganda. One wonders whether the violence that results and continues to express itself is a direct consequence of such broadcasts. Freedom of speech and expression and independence of the media is cherished by the people of Pakistan guaranteed as it is under the Constitution, however, there is no place in the public discourse to propagate the commission of an offence or to incite people to resort to violence. Broadcasts cannot encourage violence, extremism, militancy or hatred.

“7. It is also a matter of considerable concern that some people are propagating views broadcast which malign the Armed Forces of Pakistan by projecting the Armed Forces of Pakistan as something wholly apart from the Executive and, as if they are not, subject to the Constitution. In doing so they are clearly violating Article 5 of the Constitution........

“Everyone is bound to uphold the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, including every media-anchor, politician, and aalim. Those who do not do so do not serve Pakistan. The people of Pakistan through their chosen representatives gave to themselves the Constitution and wherein it has been stipulated that, 'Loyalty to the State is the basic duty of every citizen. Obedience to the Constitution and law is the inviolable obligation of every citizen wherever he may be and of every other person for the time being within Pakistan'...........

“10. We also issue notice to the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) with the direction to exercise extreme vigilance of the electronic media to ensure that electronic media is strictly complying with the provisions of the Ordinance hereinabove mentioned, failing which they should be proceeded against in accordance with law. Pemra is further directed to submit a comprehensive report with regard to all the electronic media channels with regard to the matters mentioned above. Since we have made observations, which some in the media may consider adverse to their financial interest, therefore, those of them who have a different understanding of the Constitution, the Ordinance and the laws of Pakistan to the one as articulated above may file their concise statements. The Ministry of Information, Broadcasting, and National Heritage, Government of Pakistan, is directed to send a copy of this order to all electronic media contemplated in the Ordinance and to all newspapers and magazines published in Pakistan for information and compliance.”

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