ISLAMABAD - The Supreme Court on Wednesday directed the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) to immediately enforce the code of conduct for electronic media.

The Supreme Court issued the order after a number of programmes were aired on Tuesday evening in violation of Section 19 of the Pemra’s amended Act 2007 as well as articles 19 and 19A of the Constitution.

A three-judge bench of the apex court, headed by Chief Justice Jawwad S Khawaja, also ordered the federal government to complete the process for the appointment of the Pemra chairman within 30 days. The bench was informed that the federal government and Pakistan Broadcasters Association (PBA) had agreed on the code of conduct for the electronic media, but the federal government had not so far notified it without any valid reason.

Attorney General for Pakistan Salman Aslam Butt submitted that the federal government would notify the code of conduct soon. Justice Jawwad said two months ago the court had directed all the stakeholders to frame the code of conduct in view of the Media Commission report.

Justice Qazi Faez Isa, a member of the bench, pointed out that on Tuesday last a TV channel aired a programme about general adjournment application of Chaudhry Aitzaz Ahsan advocate. Acting Pemra Chairman Kamal-ud-Din Tipu, however, showed ignorance about the anti-judges programme.

“Should we issue a contempt notice to the owner of that TV channel? Don’t take silence as weakness,” Justice Isa said. He further said the court respected the freedom of expression, but abusive language against judges was a different thing.

Expressing concern over the chairman’s reply, the court said whether he was a fit person for this post if he was unaware of the anti-judges programme. The chief justice said that at least six persons had informed him of that programme, but the acting chairman was not aware of it. Tipu said it was not humanly possible to monitor every programme being aired on TV channels. The CJ remarked there was an impression that the media was a saleable commodity. Justice Dost Muhammad observed if the Pemra failed to play its monitoring role, the persons having black money would run media organisations for the protection of their interests.

According to the agreed draft of the code of conduct; TV channels will not broadcast anything that casts aspersions on the judiciary or the armed forces except in the case of ‘fair comment’, violates copyrights or property rights or incites, aids or abets, glamorises or justifies violence, crime, terrorism or offence, or blackmails or intimidates any person. The draft states that in talk shows, the licensee will ensure that no false, distorted or misleading information reaches the public domain and the shows do not intrude into the private life, grief or distress of individuals. The personal interest of a reporter and a presenter which may call into question the impartiality of a programme shall be disclosed before its airing and news and any other programme shall not be aired in a manner that is likely to jeopardise an ongoing inquiry or investigation.

It adds that live programmes will ensure an effective delaying mechanism and the licensee will ensure that all those involved in a programme development do not take prior advantage of information gained in course of professional duties for private gain, including stock markets and financial matters.

The draft further says the messages of banned organisations shall not go on air and private information, behaviour or correspondence will also not be brought into public domain. Unnecessary details and footages of gory scenes, bloodshed or dead bodies shall not be aired. No content which is against Islamic values, ideology of Pakistan and the founding fathers (Quaid and Iqbal), or calls to take up arms against the federation or its integrity, security and defence or which derogates any religion, sect or community and could create disharmony will go on air.