The Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) issued a show-cause notice to TV channel News One on Friday for airing “derogatory/demeaning remarks” about federal Communications Minister Murad Saeed in a programme “without any editorial control.”
Prime Minister Imran Khan singled out Saeed for special commendation for the success of his Ministry of Communications, which came in first place in an event on Thursday honouring the top ten performing federal ministries.
According to the Pemra notice, News One aired a show, G for Gharidah, on Thursday at 10:05 p.m., in which the anchor and panellists questioned the decision to award Saeed the top honour and made several critical and disparaging remarks about the federal minister, insinuating that other factors were at play than his ministry’s performance.
Such “unprofessional/demeaning remarks” were broadcast without any editorial control or time delay device, according to the notice. It went on to say that airing such comments “raises severe questions about [the] channel’s editorial policies and gatekeeping tools being adopted/practiced.”
The remarks were in “sheer contravention” of Pemra Ordinance 2002 as (Amendment) Act, 2007, many provisions of the Electronic Media (Programs and Advertisement) Code of Conduct, 2015, and Supreme Court decisions in a 2018 suo moto case, according to Pemra.
The regulatory board has given the channel’s CEO four days to respond in writing as to why legal action, including a fine, suspension and revocation of the channel’s licence, and other measures, should not be taken. On Tuesday, the CEO or an authorised representative must appear before the committee at its Islamabad offices with a written response.
“In the event of non-compliance, ex-parte legal action against the licensee would be taken in accordance with relevant PEMRA Laws,” the warning stated.
Observations in doubt
The notice quoted from the programme, in which anchor Gharida Farooqui questioned her panellists about the “[true] cause” for Saeed’s ministry being ranked top. Journalist Mohsin Baig, one of the panellists, said he didn’t know, but the reason was “written in Reham Khan’s book.”
“Who is oblivious of the performance and the claims against this man at the top (Saeed),” remarked another participant, senior journalist Iftikhar Ahmed.
When the gutter becomes mainstream for a few moments of infamy and titillation. Most unfortunate. https://t.co/zSGt7oLbSl
— Shireen Mazari (@ShireenMazari1) February 12, 2022
While Pemra was watching, analyst Tariq Mehmood claimed that some things were “self-explanatory” and begged the anchor not to pry.
“A book has also been referenced. There is no doubt that Imran Khan admires him and that he is a hardworking minister who is close to Imran Khan and who has once again demonstrated that he has outperformed all others in terms of performance. So, what else would you like me to say, “Mehmood remarked.
Farooqui, the host, responded by saying she didn’t understand what he was saying and asking defence analyst Lt-Gen (retd) Amjad Shoaib to explain.
“I was referring to the fact that I had not read [Reham Khan’s] book but had heard Mohsin Baig speak. I agree with everything he’s said and can’t think of anything else to say “Shoaib remarked.
A slew of condemnations
Several ministries criticised the programme for the content aired, and the media body’s notice was not the only one to bring up the matter of the comments.
The conversation between the panellists was “very condemnable,” according to Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi. “This isn’t journalism, is it? Criticism is a legitimate prerogative, but straying from values under the name of criticism is terribly sad “He sent out a tweet.
Shireen Mazari, the Minister of Human Rights, retaliated with a harsh remark.
Fawad Chaudhry, the Minister of Information, agreed with a comment calling for action against the programme host, and stated the situation was precisely why he had been attempting to implement a media regulating law since 2018.
“Only if the Cabinet passes the [media regulating] law will we be able to get rid of such trash and slime,” he remarked.
Asad Umar, the Minister of Planning, wondered what the reaction would have been if such remarks had been made about any journalist on a show. He predicted that Saeed will continue to win awards, but that “if we don’t ban such trash from TV, then damage will spread across society.”
Extremely shameful on Ghareeda Farooqi's part to lead a program with such derogatory language. This is probably the reason why people have been calling this program #GForGhatya today! We hope to see an apology for such irresponsible journalism. pic.twitter.com/gdOZ20KIsV
— PTI (@PTIofficial) February 11, 2022
Meanwhile, the ruling party branded the anchor’s use of disparaging language to open her show “very disgusting” and demanded an apology.
The programme was also panned by the media, with renowned journalist Mubashir Zaidi claiming that such “loose discourse” could never be considered journalism.