Freedom of Expression and media regulation news captured much space in the print and electronic media during the week. Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA’s) harsh steps were witnessed in curbing freedom of expression by suspending licences of two channels Neo News and Din News; while imposing fine on Sach TV along with both suspended channels. Authority issued a show cause notice to Dawn News channel as well. On the other hand the event of Direct to Home (DTH) auction and protest of cable operators to stop the auction was also widely covered by all monitored TV channels and newspapers throughout the week.
According to Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF) monitoring 207 news items were related to media regulation, 22 freedom of expression, media safety news items were 13, seven news items regarding media ethics; while eight were related to media development.
PPF monitored 257 news items in both newspapers and TV channels during the week. Majority of the news makers were 181 males, 17 females; while in 59 news items gender of spokesperson was not mentioned.
Suspension of licences, fines and show cause notice to TV channels
PEMRA suspended the licence of Neo News and Din News with imposing fine of one million Pakistan rupees on both the channels for airing baseless allegations against the Judge of Supreme Court (SC).
Similarly, Sach TV has also been fined rupees one million for airing derogatory remarks of a caller named Ali Nawaz. All three channels were issued notices on November 19, 2016 for airing comments and asked to submit reply by November 26 but the authority did not find responses satisfactory. Neo News on November 26 aired a ticker and on November 27 aired breaking news, ticker and programs in their defense and criticized Chairman PEMRA for suspending the licence of channel on personal grudges. While The Express Tribune, The Nation, Pakistan Today, daily Jang on November 27 reported the story.
In other story reported by Balochistan Express on November 26, PEMRA issued a show cause notice to Dawn News Television for telecasting inappropriate comments about the judge of a SC during its program ‘News Eye’ on November 22.
PEMRA’s notice stated that a political party leader Salman Baloch expressed unprofessional remarks about judge and by telecasting those remarks channel violated the Article 19 and 204 of the Constitution, PEMRA Act 2007, PEMRA rules 2009 and the code of conduct of electronic media.
DTH licence auction, protest of cable operators
The first auction for licensing of DTH service started on November 23 and concluded on November 24 fetching the national exchequer around rupees 14.7 billion. PEMRA announced that three successful bidders for licences were MAG Entertainment Pvt. Ltd, Lahore, with the bid of rupees 4.91 billion, Star Times Pakistan Communications Pvt. Ltd, Islamabad with rupees 4.90 billion, and Shahzad Sky Pvt. Ltd, Islamabad, which bid rupees 4.89 billion.
Speaking after the occasion Chairman PEMRA Absar Alam said, “Media has entered a new era after the auction of DTH licences; this shows the potential of growth in this industry”.
The authority would award operating licence only after approval from the interior ministry and other security agencies.
92 News, Abb Takk, Aaj News, ARY News, Capital TV, Dawn News, Express News, Geo News, Jaag, Neo News, Samaa on November 23, 24 aired tickers, detail news, breaking news, headline, programs and press talks of Chairman PEMRA while different newspapers including The Nation, The Express Tribune, Dawn, The News, Pakistan Today, Business Recorder, daily Express, daily Nawa-i-Waqt, daily Jang, daily Intekhab on November 24 and 25 reported the DTH auction event.
The Cable Operators Association of Pakistan (CAP) called off its countrywide strike after successful talk with Minister of State for Information Maryam Aurangzeb and Pakistan Broadcasters Association (PBA). President of CAP Khalid Arain informed journalists that the government had assured them that their concern over the issue of DTH licences auction would be solved.
While PBA Chairman Mian Amir Mehmood said, “A joint committee had been formed, which would negotiate the terms regarding DTH licence services with the government”. 92 News, Abb Takk, Aaj News, ARY News, Capital TV, Dawn News, Dunya News, Express News, Geo News, Jaag, Neo News, News One, Samaa aired tickers, breaking news, detail news, headlines on November 22, 23 and Dawn, The Express Tribune, The News, Business Recorder on November 23 and Pakistan Today on November 24 reported the story.
More than 4000 cable operators suspended their services in protest against rejection of their demands by authorities to postpone DTH auction for five years. Cable Operators Association of Pakistan called the strike and warned that they will continue the strike until federal government does not agree to review its policy and insists on implementing its DTH policy.
92 News, Abb Takk, Aaj News, ARY News, Capital TV, Dawn News, Dunya News, Geo News, Jaag, Neo News, News One, Samaa covered the protest of cable operators on November 21 and 22 however Dawn, The Nation, Business Recorder, The News, The Express Tribune, daily Jang on November 22 reported the story.
SC conditionally allows DTH auction
SC conditionally permitted PEMRA to start the bidding process of DTH licences but directed the authority that it will not grant licence to successful bidder till the final determination of the matter pending before the Lahore High Court (LHC).
A three-member bench headed by Justice Mashir Alam heard the appeal filed by PEMRA against LHC’s verdict. 92 News, Abb Takk, Aaj News, ARY News, Capital TV, Dawn News, Dunya News, Express News, Geo News, Jaag, News One, Samaa aired breaking news, detail news and tickers on November 23 while Business Recorder, The News, daily Express, daily Intekhab, daily Jang on November 24 reported the event.
LHC stayed the auction of DTH licences by PEMRA. A three-member bench headed by Justice Ayesha A Malik issued the order suspending the DTH licence bidding process scheduled for November 23, reported by 92 News, Capital TV, Dawn News, Dunya News, Neo News, Samaa on November 22, Capital TV, Neo News on November 23 while different newspapers Dawn, The News, Business Recorder, daily Nawa-i-Waqt, daily Jang on November 23, Pakistan Today on November 24.
RTI bill and parliamentary monitoring of channels discussed
Senate Standing Committee on Information, Broadcasting and National Heritage (IBNH) asked PEMRA to implement its plan to launch DTH system in the country. Senator Kamil Ali Agha chaired the meeting where Chairman PEMRA Alam informed Senators that a successful meeting was held with cable operators and it was decided that Pakistani DTH would be launched in November 2017.
Minister of State for IBNH Ms Aurangzeb told Senate body that working paper for parliamentary monitoring of channels will be finalized in two months. The committee also suggested that the PEMRA should form a system of a consistent rating system as present system was not satisfactory.
Ms Aurangzeb also informed Senate that Right to Information Bill (RTI) 2016 had already been approved by Federal Cabinet and would be introduced in the coming National Assembly session. Dawn, The Nation, Pakistan Today, Balochistan Express, daily Jang, daily Nawa-i-Waqt, daily Amn, daily Pakistan, daily Dunya on November 22 reported the story.
Opposition’s RTI bill in Senate
Pakistan People’s Party Senator Farhatullah Babar said, opposition has decided to introduce its own drafted RTI bill as a private piece of legislation in the Senate after excessive delay by the government in bringing RTI legislation before parliament and its efforts to avoid the earlier-agreed draft. Dawn on November 21 reported the story.
Media house attack case
ARY News, Capital TV, Express News, Neo News, Samaa aired tickers on November 21 while Daily Pakistan, daily Jang, daily Express on November 22 reported that the Anti-Terrorism Court issued non-bailable arrest warrants of Farooq Sattar, Amir Khan and other accused in the media house attack case on August 22.
Online salary payment for media personnel in Balochistan
Chief Minister’s Adviser on Information Sardar Raza Baraich said, “Balochistan is in final stage of legislation for media houses to make online payments of salaries to reporters, sub-editors and other employees”. Most of the media houses did not arrange professional trainings for sub-editors, reporters, copy writers, assignment editors and news directors. He expressed these views while speaking at the concluding session of a dialogue hosted by the Coalition for Ethical Journalism. Dawn on November 21 reported the story.
APNS praises raise in advertising budget
The All Pakistan Newspapers Society (APNS) expressed its pleasure on 40% increase in the advertising budget by the Chief Minister, Balochistan and welcomed his assurance for well judged release of advertisements to Balochistan based publications. Umer Mujib Shami, Secretary General, APNS announced the decisions of the Executive Committee meeting chaired by the President, APNS, Sarmad Ali held at Quetta on November 24, 2016, reported Dawn, Business Recorder, Balochistan Express, daily Nawa-i-Waqt on November 26 and The News and daily Jang on November 27.
PPF monitored 183 items out of which there were 54 breaking news, 47 detail news, 46 news tickers, 12 press conferences, 12 programs and 12 headlines, related to Pakistani media that were covered in the following television channels: 92 News, Aaj News, AbbTakk, ARY News, Capital TV, Dawn News, Dunya News, Express News, Geo News, Jaag News, Neo News, News One, Samaa and TV One.
Out of 74 news items there were 33 events coverage, 16 press releases, nine press briefings, 12 press conferences, three interviews, and one picture published in English and Urdu dailies including Dawn, The News, The Nation, The Express Tribune, Business Recorder, Pakistan Today, Regional Times, Balochistan Express, daily Jang, daily Dunya, daily Express, daily Nawa-i-Waqt, daily Intikhab, daily Amn, daily Pakistan.