close
Advertisement
Can't connect right now! retry

add The News to homescreen

tap to bring up your browser menu and select 'Add to homescreen' to pin the The News web app

Got it!

add The News to homescreen

tap to bring up your browser menu and select 'Add to homescreen' to pin the The News web app

Got it!
January 29, 2020

Civil society, media activists reject Pemra draft on regulating web TV

National

January 29, 2020

ISLAMABAD: Civil society organisations, activists, women’s rights collectives, journalists, media groups, industry actors and citizens have termed the draft proposal circulated by the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) titled “Consultation on Regulating Web TV and Over the Top TV (OTT) Content Services” against freedom of expression, right to information and digital rights.

The public statement released on Tuesday is endorsed by 19 organisations and movements and 38 individuals. It posits that the proposed regulation falls outside the ambit of the Pemra jurisdiction under the Pemra Ordinance 2002 as it seeks to regulate online content. Furthermore, it says that the draft regulation places onerous barriers on content creators producing through burdensome licencing requirements and will impact the ability of independent content creators to create free-thinking content online.

The statement goes on to condemn the larger clampdown on freedom of expression, both in offline and online spaces. “We the public, citizens, media sector and its practitioners, digital rights advocates, human rights groups, legal fraternity and the broader civil society in general, are alarmed and angry at recent government attempts clearly aimed at curtailing our fundamental rights to free speech and access to information through blatant attempts to restrict our digital rights and hijacking of internet and cyberspace to curb open discourse and online socio-economic freedom and pluralism, as well as distorting and limiting the media market,” said the statement.

The statement criticises that parallel and alternative draft, regulations were not made public but reportedly possessed and distributed to selected authorities by Pemra and presented before the federal cabinet that reportedly include even more stringent provisions than the ‘public’ version of the draft.

The statement termed it alarming that the draft proposal by Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) was not formally circulated among the public but shared with parliamentary committees, aiming to establish guidelines to “prevent harm to persons” on the internet but apparently aimed at restricting online freedom of expression and right to information.

The statement says the environment for free speech for the citizens and the media is already heavily curtailed in Pakistan as part of an ongoing process of suppressing civil liberties andengendering a climate of censorship. “These newly proposed regulations and measures, through publicised and unpublicised versions of drafts, can and will be used to censor online content and curb freedom of expression and right to information of media practitioners and citizens.”

The statement said that these anti-freedom of expression, anti-right to information measures and drafts cannot and should not be instituted through ‘regulations’ by bypassing legislative processes or without direct public-parliament consultations, or in violation of Articles 19 and 19A of the Constitution.

The statement said the proposals and the official and unofficial drafts seem to be attempts to indirectly materialise the otherwise rejected idea of Pakistan Media Regulatory Authority (PMRA) – the widely rejected proposal floated by the PTI government in 2019 to serve as a single controlling authority for print, broadcast and online media. It warns that such measures will result in regression of a digital economic future for Pakistan, decreased freedom of expression, increased censorship and diminished digital rights, circumscribed access to information and weakened pluralisms and death of creativity, initiative and productivity.

The participating civil society organisations, activists, journalists, industry actors and citizens appealed to the political parties, federal and provincial governments, Parliament and Prime Minister Imran Khan to prevent attempts from all quarters to sneak into policymaking all such measures as the proposed official and unofficial drafts mentioned above that will hinder Pakistan’s march into a digital future in a globally connected world. They urged an immediate official rejection of the measures and drafts in line with the interests of the citizens of Pakistan.