In countries where the truth can only be spoken in whispers, those who speak out loudly are heroes. Not in Pakistan. Whosoever dares to speak truth to the power is condemned as anti-state, working to extend foreign conspiracy against the sovereignty of the country and so on and so forth.

Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) in its 134th Authority Meeting has imposed a fine of 1 million on Geo News for airing comments on ‘institutional corruption’ in armed forces. Reason given by PEMRA was people’s complaints against the show’s episodes that went on air in the month of January this year. Why is it the case that whenever a fault in the operations and behavior of armed forces is identified people behave in a reactionary manner? Does such reactionary behavior reveal that our society is becoming a fascist one? Or what a regulatory body has done in the present case amount, does it amount to curtailment of press freedom and right to information? Indeed, it is not the only curtailment of freedom of information but also denying people their right to information.

The action taken against the media house is an attempt to discourage people from asking and raising questions on corruption that is present in projects under the supervision of armed forces. Some criticism of armed forces on the issue of corruption is not misplaced. For instance, only in recent past, the DHA scam surfaced, for which a former army chief was implicated and investigated. This shows that there are people within the armed forces who are not immune to the menace of financial irregularities. The personnel of armed forces have no different genes from the rest of the people of the country.

Like any other institution, armed forces too can be criticized if any irregularity surfaces in their operations. Criticism does not mean maligning an institution. The sooner people learn it, the better. Otherwise, as in the past had happened, blind faith in any organization of the country will ruin that very organization for lack of check and balance on its performance.

PEMRA forgets that criticism and debates are signs of a healthy and progressive society. Any attempt to curtail critique and dialogue amounts to the violation of the Constitution of Pakistan. PEMRA needs to rescind the imposed fine as soon as possible.