Absar Alam on Monday stepped down from his post as chairman of the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) shortly after the Lahore High Court declared his appointment illegal.
Announcing verdict on a petition which had raised questions on Alam’s appointment, the high court declared Alam’s appointment illegal. A citizen, Munir Ahmad filed petition in the court that Alam had been drawing Rs1.5 million salary per month whereas the post of Pemra’s chairman was equal to the MP-I (Management Position) scale and maximum Rs450,000 could be drawn under this scale.
Pemra’s counsel request seeking more time to furnish records related to the appointment of Absar Alam was dismissed. Because petition was filed almost two years before and court believed that enough time was given to the counsel to present the records and documents. Right after the court’s verdict as per press release of Pemra Absar Alam has resigned from the post of chairman immediately. Detailed verdict would make it easy to further find out reasons that lead to declare Absar’s appointment as illegal. Irregularities in the appointment of Absar should be pointed out in order to make sure that such irregularities could be prevented in the future as court has given thirty-day time for the appointment of new Pemra chairman. If there were irregularities in the appointment of Absar, then all those who were involved in the process of his appointment must be identified as well.
Putting aside the appointment saga of Absar, most will agree with the fact that regulatory authority worked in a dignified manner under his leadership. When he took charge as chairman of Pemra, he had the difficult task in front of him to establish authority of the regulator and bring the Television channels under the rules and regulations they were agreed upon at the time of issuance of TV licenses. It was a routine matter for electronic media to violate the rules as in the race of ratings ‘media ethics’ were immensely ignored. Pemra imposed heavy fines and at times banned few anchor persons to ensure that TV channels work within the decided parameters.
We hope that next chairman of Pemra would also follow the policy of keenly monitoring content of TV channels. Regulator must not allow use of electronic media for character assassination and political agendas in the garb of news reporting. Freedom of media is essential in a democratic society but this freedom also comes with great responsibility.