The Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority’s (PEMRA) decision to take notice of hate speech aired on two channels could be a precursor to greater control on hate speech on televisions in the future. While the regulatory body has erred in the past, there has been little effort in the way of curbing hate speech on electronic media, which is why this could set a positive precedent.

But does this move imply that Pakistan’s electronic media regulatory body will start doing more to prevent hate speech on electronic media? Remember that this is the same regulatory body that also banned Hamza Ali Abbasi’s Ramzan show for airing ‘provocative content’, when in actuality, he took a bold step by speaking for the rights of the minority community. A cursory look through the types of cases of television shows that were taken off air by PEMRA shows that this is not the case. Since the media watchdog works on a complaint system, PEMRA’s recent decisions to take shows off air have used the number of complaints issued against a specific segment as evidence of gaffes on the media’s part. However, the country’s only official media watchdog should not only rely on complaints, but also have the ability to operate on its own, with a set role and a clarified idea over what should be taken off air.

This ad-hoc mechanism of cherry-picking which segments to take off air must not continue. New Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) must be created, that not only depend on complaints, but also allow for PEMRA to take hate speech off the air independently, and ask TV channels to be more responsible in this regard. Other issues aside, the issue of the protection of minorities should be a priority, and PEMRA can play a more active in part in monitoring TV channels to ensure that hate speech on the basis of religion is eliminated from electronic media.