Pakistan’s electronic media regulatory body bars air time for May 9 offenders

Islamabad: Pakistan’s electronic media watchdog has told the satellite TV channels to boycott “hate mongers, perpetrators and their facilitators” and advised them to refrain from giving airtime to “zealots” of a political party following the May 9 mayhem, a media report said on Thursday, hitting former prime minister Imran Khan’s party.

The Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) in a notification released on Wednesday directed all satellite TV channel licensees that they should “remain vigilant and not to promote any hate monger, perpetrators and their facilitators inadvertently.” Violent protests broke out on May 9 across many cities in the country following the arrest of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party Chairman Khan by paramilitary Rangers in Islamabad.

Khan’s party workers vandalised over 20 military installations and government buildings, including the Lahore Corps Commander House, Mianwali airbase and the ISI building in Faisalabad.

The mob also attacked the Army headquarters (GHQ) in Rawalpindi for the first time. Khan was later released on bail.

Referring to the events of “Black Day” on May 9, the notification said that “zealots of [a] political party” attacked state and public properties, endangered innocent lives, and promoted anti-state to weaken the country and state institutions which is a horrific trend, Geo News reported.

“While the Constitution guarantees citizens the right to freedom of expression, there are exceptions to this right. It is crucial to strike a balance between protecting freedom of speech and maintaining public order,” the order said.

Underlining that national unity should be promoted, PEMRA directed that hatemongers be blacked out and should not be promoted on television, and violent, discriminatory content should not be broadcast, the report said.

The notification directed all licensees “to adhere to [the] provisions of PEMRA laws and orders of the superior courts by refraining from providing their airtime to such individuals who propagate hate speech and provoke public sentiments against the Federation and State Institutions.” “The licensee shall ensure that nothing is contained in any programme, or an advertisement, which is prejudicial to the interests of the sovereignty and integrity of Pakistan, Ideology of Pakistan, security, friendly relations with foreign states, public order or which may constitute contempt of court, defamation or incitement to an offence or brings into disrepute the State institutions including armed forces,” the notification read.

“No licensee shall broadcast any live programme unless there is an effective delaying mechanism put in place in order to ensure effective monitoring and editorial control in conformity with this Code,” it added.