ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) on Friday issued a show-cause notice to the News One for airing what it called derogatory/demeaning remarks about Federal Minister for Communications Murad Saeed without any editorial check in a Thursday show.
Prime Minister Imran Khan had praised the minister for his ministry’s performance which was ranked first in a function on Thursday here to celebrate the top 10 best performing federal ministries.
The Pemra notice says the private television channel aired a show, G for Gharidah, on Thursday at 10:05pm where the anchor and panelists questioned the decision to award Saeed the top honour and made several critical and disparaging remarks about the federal minister, insinuating other factors behind the award instead of his ministry's performance.
The notice criticised that unprofessional/demeaning remarks were aired without any editorial control or time delay mechanism in place. It noted that airing such remarks ‘raises serious concerns on the performance of the channel’s editorial policy and gate-keeping tools being adopted/practiced’.
The regulatory authority says the remarks were in ‘sheer violation’ of the Pemra Ordinance 2002; several clauses of the Electronic Media (Programmes and Advertisement) Code of Conduct 2015 and the orders of the Supreme Court in a 2018 suo motu case. The regulatory body directed the channel's CEO to reply in writing within four days as to why legal action including a fine, suspension and revocation of licence along with other measures should not be initiated.
The CEO or an authorised representative was directed to appear before the body at its headquarters in Islamabad on Tuesday with a written reply and in case of non-compliance, ex-parte legal action shall be taken against the licensee in accordance with relevant provisions of Pemra laws.
The notice reproduced the comments made in the programme where anchor Gharidah Farooqui questioned her panelists on what was the ‘[real] reason’ for Saeed's ministry ranking first. A panelist, journalist Mohsin Baig, responded that he didn't know but the reason was ‘written in Reham Khan's book’. Another panelist, senior journalist Iftikhar Ahmed, said who is unaware of the performance and the allegations against this man at the top (Saeed).
Meanwhile, analyst Tariq Mehmood said that some things were ‘self-explanatory and asked the anchor to not prod over it since the Pemra is watching. ‘A book has been mentioned as well. There is nothing hidden about this that Imran Khan likes him a lot and he is a very hard working minister, is very close to Imran Khan and has once again proved that he has left all others behind in performance. So what more do you want me to say," Mehmood said.
At this, the host, Gharidah Farooqui, said she did not understand what he was talking about and asked defence analyst Lt-Gen (retd) Amjad Shoaib to clarify and he said, “I was saying that I did not read the book but I have definitely heard Mohsin Baig. I agree with whatever he has said and can't say anything else.”
Besides, the Pemra notice, condemnations poured in even from the cabinet members. Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi tweeted that the conversation between the panelists was highly condemnable and asked what kind of journalism is this? “Criticism is your legitimate right but it is very sad to stray from morals under the guise of criticism.”
Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Chaudhry Fawad Hussain agreed with a comment which called for action to be taken against the programme host and said the incident was precisely the reason why he had been trying since 2018 to bring a media regulatory law. “It is only possible to get rid of such crap and laxity if the cabinet passes the [media regulatory] law,” he wrote in a tweet.
Federal Minister for Planning and Development Asad Umar questioned what the response would have been if such comments were made about any journalist on a show? He said Saeed would continue accruing further laurels but “if we do not stop such filth from TV, destruction will spread in the society”. Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) has condemned Pemra for issuing a show-cause notice and taking TV channel off-air without following due process and using cable operators for this purpose.
President PFUJ Shahzada Zulfiqar and Secretary General Nasir Zaidi said that such an “illegal and unilateral action shows malafide and ill-conceived practice for victimizing media house.”
They demanded immediate restoration of transmission of NewsOne and following set procedures and ethics.
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