In its written order of the 30th Nov hearing of suo moto case regarding the Islamabad Rawalpindi sit-in the Supreme Court has pointed out the questionable role played by media during the sit-in. The irresponsible reporting was the reason that led to a blanket ban by the government on news channels on the day of the botched Faizabad operation. The blanket ban on news channels by the government made little sense but the written order of Supreme Court points to some very important points that media groups and regulatory bodies must take note of.
In the written order the Court notes, ‘The Islamabad Police report discloses that media channels were providing live coverage as a consequence whereof the extreme measure of taking them off the air was resorted to. It was further stated that it becomes difficult for the State to maintain its writ when programs with inflammatory content and inciting violence are broadcasted. These are undoubtedly legitimate concerns. When violence is perpetrated against the State and destruction of public and private property is broadcasted without condemnation of the violence, or by justifying it, not only is a platform provided to advocate their cause but also encourages them to resort to violence.’
It further notes that, ‘It is a matter of grave concern when inflammatory, provocative or abusive statements are broadcasted as these have 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. Freedom of speech and expression and independence of the media is cherished by the people of Pakistan guaranteed as it is under the Constitution; however, there is 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.’
The order also notes that, ‘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.’
And that, ‘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 written order of the Supreme Court points out the questionable role by the media and also directed PEMRA to exercise extreme vigilance of the electronic media to ensure that electronic media is strictly complying with the authority’s ordinance. Media groups and media persons should learn from the mistakes and ensure that such a thing is not repeated again.