The electronic media watchdog, PEMRA, has banned media coverage of proscribed organisations, including the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), Jamaatud Dawa (JuD) and the Falah-i-Insaniat Foundation (FIF). According to a circular issued by PEMRA on Monday, the “Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Interior, under National Action Plan (NAP), have banned all kind of coverage of banned JuD, LeT and FIF under UN resolution 1267.” PEMRA also attached a list of 60 banned organisations and 12 organisations which were on the watch-list. This “prohibits broadcasting or re-broadcasting any programme which is likely to create hatred amongst the people or prejudicial to the maintenance of law and order or is likely to disturb public peace”.

Meanwhile, Chaudhry Nisar has been at pains to deny that this circular originated at the behest of the Interior Ministry, even though all television media practitioners, including this group’s television channel, can vouch for the words in the notification being as above. So why exactly is the Interior Minister shying away from owning the circular? Perish the thought, could it be because he doesn’t want to risk offending anyone, by being perceived as the bringer of a ban? And if so, it says a lot about the level of courage in the government, if the best they can offer to the courts is a media ban, and no real action from their side.

Curbing hate speech is a good thing, where this ensures that no content is aired which is likely to “incite, aid, abet, glamorise or justify violence”. However, outright banning all broadcasting really does not do anything to curb terrorism, rather will only keep people in the dark about the activities of these dangerous outfits. The response to ban has been apt over social media and the people are not fooled. Banning coverage does not mean that any action will be taken against the organisations themselves, just that people will be oblivious to the mischief being caused. In fact, the government might just make the job of regulating their activities much more difficult without evidence provided by media.

This ban also claims that, “Any advertisement or fund collection by proscribed organisations in electronic media shall also constitute a breach of these obligations.” More than 2,000 trained workers of the Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) are actively involved in rescue activities in earthquake areas, where they are leading rescue operations in KPK, FATA and Northern Areas. They have already given rescue training to some 10,000 people of the area during past three years, and have volunteers that are engaged in relief work at local levels. Blankets, tents, food, water and medicines are being provided to the affected people.

These organisations are complex, and they are integrated very well into our social fabric. We cannot deny that they have been of help during the earthquake, and we can also not deny that they are up to their neck in terrorist activities and hate speech.

The state needs to go after them with the full force of the law rather than hiding behind impractical institutions like PEMRA and laying the burden of curbing these entities on the media.