ISLAMABAD:(APS)May 8, 2017-Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) Chairman Absar Alam, while speaking at a press conference on Monday, revealed that Pemra employees have been threatened by unidentified people for taking action against different media outlets.
During the press conference, Alam played what appeared to be a recording of a threatening phone call, appealing to law enforcement authorities to investigate the threats and hold to account those responsible for threatening Pemra employees.
“I have a family; Pemra employees have a family. While I can tolerate personal attacks, I cannot permit threats directed towards my institution or its workforce,” he said.
“It is getting more and more difficult for us to operate. The situation is dire,” he said, referring to the repeated threats Pemra employees allegedly face in the course of their duty.
Alam also took the opportunity to appeal to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Chief Justice Saqib Nisar to expedite legal proceedings that have seen 333 out of 357 notices issued by Pemra challenged and stayed by different courts.
Alam stressed that the government’s National Action Plan (NAP) to eradicate terrorism involves the role of Pemra as an important bulwark in curbing hate speech that at times makes its way to mainstream media outlets operating under Pemra regulations.
“As we have taken action against vulgarity, it is also our responsibility to monitor and curb problematic hate speech on television,” Alam stressed.
“We cannot even enforce the code of conduct that we have in place,” Alam said, referring to the difficulties he claimed Pemra faced in taking administrative action to its logical end.
Answering a question, he said “I will not resign. I will struggle until our concerns are addressed.”
Pemra has been active in 2017, taking notice of and ordering action against different violations of electronic media rules by TV channels.
In January, analyst Dr Shahid Masood’s show on Bol News was found disclosing sensitive information “recklessly and carelessly”, while Dr Aamir Liaquat’s show “Aisa Nahi Chaley Ga”, which airs on the same network, was served a show-cause notice for usage of “inflammatory, indecent and irresponsible” language.
Much to Pemra’s frustration, Liaquat, on his show the following week, defiantly flouted the ban and went ahead with his telecast, hurling abuse at Pemra and criticising its decision to take his show off the air.
The Sindh High Court stalled Pemra’s notice on two different occasions, making way for Bol news to be televised.
In February, Pemra had issued a notice to Hum TV’s soap “Kitni Girhain Baaki Hain” for airing homosexual content in one of its episodes. The TV channel was asked to clarify whether the drama had received foreign funding and what educational knowledge it was imparting by airing such content.
In March, Pemra had slapped a five-day ban on a Geo TV morning show for airing ‘objectionable content’.
In its most recent move, Pemra had last week revoked the license of Bol News over lack of security clearance for its directors.
Amidst the show cause notices issued by Pemra on violation of it’s guidelines, Absar Alam’s chairmanship itself was questioned by the Lahore High Court (LHC) in March when the court sought details of his appointment following a petition filed by Judicial Activism Panel (JAP). In the petition, it was argued that Alam’s appointment as Pemra chairman was a clear case of nepotism and violation of merit on the part of the federal government.