Pakistan has one of the worst records on media freedom and repression by the state. Instead of allowing freedom of speech and expression, the deep state has preferred to clamp down on any form of democratic dissent. Over the last year or so, PEMRA (Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority), technically an independent and constitutionally established federal institution responsible for regulating and issuing channel licenses, has issued guidelines that prevent news channels from broadcasting any speeches or talks given by opposition leaders.
Just this week PEMRA issued an order “prohibiting news channels from broadcasting interviews and public addresses by ‘proclaimed offenders and absconders’ on national television.”
The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) immediately issued a statement in response. “This step violates not only citizens’ right to freedom of expression under Article 19 of the Constitution, but also impinges on people’s right to know. HRCP believes that such orders reflect arbitrary censorship, with the very people who advocate it in one instance when it favours them, abandoning it in another when it does not. The fact that this order follows closely on the heels of a speech by political opposition leader Mian Nawaz Sharif, questioning the legitimacy of the 2018 elections, indicates that PEMRA appears to be little more than a tool of political convenience rather than an objective, independent regulatory body. It is worth recalling that PEMRA did not deny airtime to former President Pervez Musharraf, who is also a proclaimed offender.”
Further, HRCP pointed “to the growing censorship in Pakistan, even as the government claims that the press has never been more free. We demand that this order be withdrawn immediately and that the government refrain from weaponizing censorship in this blatant manner.”