SC directs Pemra to exercise extreme vigilance of electronic media

ISLAMABAD – The Supreme Court has directed PEMRA to exercise extreme vigilance of the electronic media to ensure that it were strictly complying with the provisions of the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) Ordinance, 2002, failing which they should be proceeded against in accordance with law.

The SC bench comprising Justice Mushir Alam and Justice Qazi Faez Isa , in its order on a suo motu case on action regarding Islamabad-Rawalpindi sit-in (dharna), also directed PEMRA to submit a comprehensive report with regard to all the electronic media channels regarding their broadcasting of inflammatory content, provocative or abusive statements that incite violence. “Since we have made observations, which some in the media may consider adverse to their financial interest,” the court said, adding that those of them, who had a different understanding of the Constitution, the Ordinance and the laws of Pakistan, might file their concise statements.

The court also directed the Ministry of Information, Broadcasting, and National Heritage to send a copy of the order to all electronic media contemplated in the Ordinance and to all newspapers and magazines published in Pakistan for information and compliance and report on January 3, 2018.

Quoting the police report, the Supreme Court observed that it was a matter of grave concern when inflammatory, provocative or abusive statements were broadcast as those had the effect of fanning the flames.

“There are also those who are pushing out hate propaganda. One wonders whether the violence that results and continues to express itself is a direct consequence of such broadcasts,” it said.

The order said,”The freedom of speech and expression and independence of the media was cherished by the people of Pakistan guaranteed as it is under the Constitution; however, there was no place in the public discourse to propagate the commission of an offence or to incite people to resort to violence. “Broadcasts cannot encourage violence, extremism, militancy or hatred,” it added.

The verdict said,” It is also a matter of considerable concern that some people are propagating views broadcast which malign the Armed Forces of Pakistan by projecting the Armed Forces of Pakistan as something wholly apart from the Executive and, as if they are not, subject to the Constitution. In doing so they are clearly violating Article 5 of the Constitution. “Everyone is bound to uphold the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, including every media-anchor, politician, and aalim. Those, who do not do so, do not serve Pakistan.

“The people of Pakistan through their chosen representatives gave to themselves the Constitution and wherein it has been stipulated that, “Loyalty to the state is the basic duty of every citizen. Obedience to the Constitution and law is the inviolable obligation of every citizen wherever he may be and of every other person for the time being within Pakistan.”

The court said that those carrying out violent acts, or advocating or propagating violence, or destroying or damaging property, or abusing, or resorting to hate speech also violated the injunctions of Islam.

“Article 2 of the Constitution stipulates that ‘Islam shall be the State religion of Pakistan’. A believer cannot condone, let alone perpetuate violence,” the order added.

The court also showed concern that those parts of its earlier orders, which referred to the verses from the Holy Quran and the sayings of Prophet Muhammad (Peace and Blessings Be Upon Him) apparently were not propagated as mentioned in the previous order.

According to the judgment, those killing, maiming and injuring, and those destroying or damaging property and those advocating or justifying violence, purportedly in the name of Islam, attempt to denigrate Islam. They also provide fodder to the enemies of Islam and Muslims. And also help perpetuate the myth that Islam was spread by the sword.

“Peace is the religion of Islam, as can be gathered from the quoted verses of the Holy Quran,” the verdict added.

The court also directed the ministries of Interior and Defence to provide information related to (i) the particulars of law enforcement personnel who lost their lives; (ii) the number of law enforcement personnel who were injured; (iii) the number of innocent bystanders or members of public who lost their lives; (iv) the number of innocent bystanders or members of public who were injured; (v) the particulars of the protesters who lost their lives; (vi) the number of protesters who were injured; and (vii) the particulars of public and private property destroyed and damaged by the protesters with their approximate value.

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