ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) Monday warned TV channels, directing them to refrain from telecasting any content against the state institutions.
The regulatory body directed that any content either recorded or produced under the channels’ banner or aired during a live speech or a press talk against institutions should not be aired.
“There remains no ambiguity in our minds with regards to the laxity of the licensees in ensuring compliance with the Code of Conduct and of PEMRA as a regulatory authority in penalising licensees on account of any violations of the Code of Conduct,” read the statement.
“If voluntary violations of the Code of Conduct or even negligence by the licensees to ensure adherence thereto is not penalised by PEMRA, the Code of Conduct will be reduced to a mere paper tiger and be rendered absolutely redundant. We, therefore, issue a writ of mandamus to PEMRA to ensure that the following parameters laid down in the law and the Code of Conduct are adhered to in letter and spirit and that no violations thereof shall be tolerated by PEMRA.”
The Code of Conduct ensures that the freedom of speech and the right to information (Articles 19 and 19A of the Constitution) are protected, and at the same time provides that the discussion of sub-judice matters must be conducted in a manner which does not negatively affect another person’s fundamental right to be dealt with in accordance with the law (Article 4 of the Constitution) and the right to a fair trial and due process (Article 10A of the Constitution).
All licensees should be sent a notice/reminder of their basic ethics and objectives, standards and obligations under the Code of Conduct, particularly Clause 4(10) thereof, in that, editorial oversight should be observed prior to the airing of all programmes and any programme, the subject or content of which is found or deemed to be in violation of the Code of Conduct in its true letter and spirit, should not be aired by the licensee;
Any discussion on a matter which is sub judice may be aired but only to the extent that it is to provide information to the public which is objective in nature and not subjective, and no content, including commentary, opinions or suggestions about the potential fate of such sub judice matter which tends to prejudice the determination by a court, tribunal, etc., shall be aired;
While content based on extracts of court proceedings, police records and other sources are allowed to the extent that they are fair and correct, any news or discussions in programmes shall not be aired which are likely to jeopardise ongoing inquiries, investigations or trials;
In compliance with Clause 5 of the Code of Conduct, all licensees should strictly ensure that an effective delaying mechanism is in place for broadcasting live programmes to ensure stern compliance with the Code of Conduct and Articles 4, 10A and 204 of the Constitution;
In compliance with Clause 17 of the Code of Conduct, an impartial and competent in-house Monitoring Committee shall be formed by each licensee, with intimation to PEMRA which shall be duty bound to ensure compliance with the Code of Conduct;
With regards to the Monitoring Committee, we direct that licensees include (for each of its meetings) at least one practising lawyer of at least 5 years or above practice, with an adequate understanding of the law to advise the licensee regarding any potential violations of the Code of Conduct by programmes to be aired in the future;
In compliance with Clause 20 of the Code of Conduct, each licensee shall be required to hold regular training of its officers, employees, staff, anchors, representatives etc. with regards to ensure compliance with the Code of Conduct with the schedule and agenda of these regular training to be intimated to PEMRA through the Monitoring Committee;
If any licensee is found to have violated or failed to observe the Code of Conduct in its true letter and spirit, particularly Clause 4 of thereof, and/or Articles 4, 10A and 204 of the Constitution, strict and immediate action should be taken against such a licensee in accordance with Section 33 of the Ordinance. The Supreme Court or any High Court retains the power to take cognizance of the matter and shall exercise its powers under Article 204 ibid where such Court is of the opinion that it is appropriate in the facts and circumstances of the case for it to do so;
The regulatory body further said that the Islamabad High Court (IHC) has also directed PEMRA to “ensure proper utilisation of the prescribed procedure regarding delay mechanism.”
It also observed that the TV channels telecast “unwarranted/objectionable views” without editorial control and utilising effective time delay mechanisms which could expunge undesirable statements maligning state institutions.
The body, in its statement, said that the rights given to the media are subject to reasonable restrictions in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution or any law.
It further added that the airing of hateful statements violates Article 19, directing the licensees to implement the Supreme Court of Pakistan order passed in Suo Moto Case No 28 of 2018.
The authority decided that the maximum time delay mechanism for live content is deployed, an editorial board or monitoring committee is constituted and.
The regulatory body also directed the licensees to stop live telecasts of content/programmes and should implement para 2 and 7, adding that action will be taken against those violating the directives.