ISLAMABAD: The electronic media regulator has slapped a ban on Bol News for the live coverage of clashes between law enforcement personnel and the PTI workers in the federal capital.
The two sides came face to face on Saturday when PTI Chairman Imran Khan arrived to appear before a judge in the Toshakhana case.
As the situation intensified, the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) directed all news and current affairs channels to stop live coverage from outside the Judicial Complex, the scene of unruly clashes.
Bol News continued to air the situation live prompting the regulator to direct cable operators to stop its transmission.
Pemra reasoned that live coverage of public outrage against law enforcers created panic among police ranks.
The Pemra advisory, issued on the Islamabad district administration’s request, said TV channels showing live footage and images of a violent mob and attacks were a cause for concern.
“Such footage/images were seen on TV screens without any editorial oversight during a recent standoff between political party workers and law enforcing agencies in Lahore wherein, [a] violent mob used petrol bombs, injuring [unarmed] policemen and blazing police vehicles,” the advisory added.
“Live telecast of such footage on different satellite TV channels created chaos and panic among the viewers and the police.”
Pemra said such actions by a mob not only jeopardise the law and order situation but also make people’s lives and properties vulnerable.
“Airing of such content is in violation of judgment of the Supreme Court in suo motu case No 28 of 2018,” the electronic media regulator added.
The advisory referred to Section 27(a) of the Pemra Ordinance, 2002 which empowered the regulator to prohibit live as well as recorded coverage of any kind of rally, public gathering or procession by any party, organisation and individual. The Pemra warned in case of non-compliance, the channel’s licence shall be suspended without any show-cause notice “in public interest along with other enabling provisions of law”.
The channel’s management has said that the regulator’s action was unfair and it will continue to fight at all forums.
“Bol [News] has been repeatedly targeted by Pemra over our stance to give fair coverage to the mainstream political opposition, the PTI,” said Siddique Jan, who is the channel’s bureau chief in Islamabad. He said cable operators said they were ordered to move the channel’s number, making it difficult for viewers to watch its coverage. “This was unfair.”
Published in Dawn, March 19th, 2023