Pemra's censorship.

A REGULATOR that is supposed to be independent continues to play its biased role of censoring political voices that fall out of favour with the establishment. Whereas the role of the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority is to regulate media independently under the Pemra Ordinance 2002 as amended by the Pemra Amendment Act 2007, what we have seen it do is impose blanket bans on political personalities as well as social issues.

While the previous targets were Nawaz Sharif, Asif Zardari, Maryam Nawaz and Manzoor Pashteen among others, the latest target is Imran Khan and the coverage of his jalsas and speeches.

It is useless getting into what the stated reason is, because the principle of banning popular civilian political leaders is deeply problematic and reeks of authoritarian censorship, reminiscent of martial law regimes - much like during the PTI regime.

This points in one direction: the censorship regime remains intact and consistent; only the civilian front changes, while the target remains civilian actors that fall out of favour with the security establishment.

It is not only political actors whose coverage is being censored - social issues such as a rape incident in Islamabad and terrorism events are also out of bounds for television as per Pemra's orders. Such censorship has profound consequences.

Enforcing censorship on electronic media keeps matters of public concern out of the reach of audiences who have the right to information as per Article 19-A of the Constitution. But citizens do not simply forget about an incident or subject when it is censored on television - they look for alternative sources to access information.

This reduces the legitimacy of electronic media as citizens look for information in alternative spaces in the digital realm where enforcing regulation is next to impossible. Hence it is easy for disinformation to proliferate, and for reporting without editorial process to become the go-to source.

Citizens do not simply forget about an incident or subject when it is censored on TV.

In short, censorship fuels disinformation.

The issue of Pemra's failure in guiding regulation and resorting to blanket bans on matters of public information is also pressing. If some channels are failing to protect the identity of a violence survivor, that should not mean that discussion of the entire matter becomes out of bounds.

There is a critical need to especially report on rape prevention and punishment, and to focus on...

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