ISLAMABAD – On the directives of the federal government, the Pakistan Electronic Regulatory Media Authority (Pemra) on Sunday evening restored transmission of private television channels across the country.
Private TV channels went off-air in most parts of the country for almost 28 hours before their transmission was restored.
On Saturday morning, the Pemra stopped private TV channels from live coverage of the operation against protesters at Faizabad on the directives of Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi. A notification issued by the Pemra said: “In pursuance of the policy directive received from the federal government through the Ministry of Information, Broadcasting, National Heritage and Literary Heritage, the Pemra is pleased to withdraw authority’s earlier decision of November 25, wherein transmission/licences of all the news and current affairs satellite TV channels were suspended.”
It said: “All news and current affairs satellite TV channels have immediately been restored. All distribution networks have been directed to restore these channels to their original positions immediately.” Meanwhile, State Minister for Information Marriyum Aurangzeb said in a statement that transmission of news channels were restored on the order of the prime minister. She said the government believes in the freedom of the media.
The federal government has also issued policy directives asking the Pemra to take news and current affairs channels off-air, which would violate the agreed guideline regarding coverage of the Faizabad sit-in in Islamabad and elsewhere in the country in this connection. “The guidelines have been sent to the Pakistan Broadcasters Association,” the notification said.
Earlier, Director General IP Wing, Ministry of Information, wrote a letter to the Pemra chairman, which said, “Consequent upon the suspension of security forces operation launched in compliance with the orders of the Islamabad High Court against the unlawful sit-in of a group of protesters at Faizabad, the federal government is pleased to withdraw its policy directive (No. F.1(1) 2017-DGIP) dated November 25 on the subject and news channels are allowed to resume normal operation within the parameters of Pemra code of conduct 2015 and guidelines of the authority on the media coverage of the sit-in at Rawalpindi/Islamabad.”
The Pemra will take off-air only those TV channels which will violate the Pemra laws and code of conduct 2015, directives, determination and guidelines issued by the authority regarding the audio-visual coverage of the Faizabad sit-in and related demonstrations all over the country.
However, it may be noted that the Pemra chairman is authorised to exercise authority delegated to him under section 27 of Pemra (Amendment ) Act, 2007, to take necessary action against, wherever needed, broadcast media or distribution service operator from “broadcasting or re-broadcasting or distributing any programme or advertisement if it is likely to create hatred among the people or is prejudicial to the maintenance of the law and order or is likely to disturb public peace and tranquility or endangers national security ..”
The Pemra chairman is, therefore directed, in public interest, to continue exercising his powers to deal with the violations, if any, noted or reported through internal or external monitoring sources.
Meanwhile, the PBA strongly condemned the unilateral closure of news channels by the government. The National Press Club and the Rawalpindi- Islamabad Union of Journalists also staged a protest against the government on Sunday afternoon, demanding the restoration of transmission of all media channels. The Pemra has also issued guidelines to private television channels regarding the media coverage of the Faizabad sit-in.