PPF concerned by PEMRA directive barring coverage of proclaimed offenders, including four media persons
Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF) is concerned by a recent directive issued by the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) that has barred coverage of 11 individuals, including four media persons, for being proclaimed offenders/absconders.
On August 12, the regulatory body issued a directive prohibiting media coverage of 11 individuals, including four media persons — Sabir Shakir, Moeed Pirzada, Wajahat Saeed Khan and Shaheen Sehbai.
As per PEMRA’s directive, this was in keeping with a Sindh High Court order from 2015 under which a proclaimed offender/absconder does not have the right to appear on TV. The order prohibited coverage of the individuals.
Earlier this year, in June, the First Information Reports (FIRs) were registered against the four journalists named in the PEMRA directive.
In an FIR registered at the Ramna Police Station in Islamabad, dated June 10, a complainant named Muhammad Aslam, claimed that on May 9, he saw that 20-25 individuals were inciting people to take part in terrorist activities through the video message, Twitter account screenshots and social media screenshots of journalists Saeed Khan and Sehbai as well as two others.
Another FIR, registered at the Aabpara Police Station in the capital, dated June 13, by a complainant named Majid Mehmood, stated that on May 9, he was at the Melody area in the capital where he that 15-20 people involved in the destruction were taking instruction from the videos of anchorpersons Shakir and Pirzada and one other person.
At the time that the cases were registered against the media persons, they were outside the country.
In a post on Twitter, Sehbai shared that Pirzada and himself had sent a legal notice to PEMRA for the withdrawal of the directive.
This is not the first time PEMRA has barred coverage of proclaimed offenders or absconders. The policy has previously been used to restrict coverage of former prime ministers, including Nawaz Sharif and Imran Khan. The restriction on coverage of key political figures cuts off the public’s ability to stay informed and makes it difficult for the media to report on key developments.
In a step that was widely believed to be an attempt to deny airtime to former premier and supremo of the Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N), Nawaz Sharif, on October 1, 2020, PEMRA prohibited the broadcast and rebroadcast of any speech, interview, or public address of an absconder or a proclaimed offender on TV channels.
In August 2022, the regulator barred the broadcast of live speeches by the former prime minister and Pakistan Tehreek Insaf chairman Imran Khan. In March of this year, PEMRA decided to completely ban the broadcast or rebroadcast of speeches or press talks by the former premier. This directive was eventually suspended by the Lahore High Court.