Musharraf gags media
* PEMRA allowed to seal channels, suspend licences, make new rules without informing parliament
* Council of Complaints withdrawn
* Fine for violation of rules increased tenfold
By Zulfiqar Ghuman
ISLAMABAD: President General Pervez Musharraf on Monday introduced amendments to the Pakistan Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) Ordinance, 2002, putting new restrictions on electronic media.
The amendments, made through an ordinance, empower PEMRA to seize the broadcast or distribution service equipment of channels, seal their offices, and suspend their licences if they operate illegally or violate PEMRA rules. Sub-section 2 of Section 30 has been withdrawn, under which complaints against broadcasters were referred to a Council of Complaints, which decided what action PEMRA should take against the violators.
Under a new Section 39a, the PEMRA authorities have been authorised to make new regulations without informing parliament.
The ordinance raises possible fines for violations from Rs 1 million to Rs 10 million. It also brings Internet Protocol TV, radio and mobile TV under PEMRA regulations. The definition of frequency has also been changed in the rules encompassing the frequency of electromagnetic waves measured in hertz and used for transmission.
The owners of private TV channels have also been bracketed along with operators to bring them under the PEMRA laws. The new ordinance is called the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Amendment) Ordinance, 2007, and comes into force throughout Pakistan at once.
Agencies add: Some regulations on who is allowed to be licensed to broadcast in Pakistan have been extended to cover “any foreign non-governmental organisation”, reported the BBC.
“This ordinance gives more power for the PEMRA to implement its rules and take actions against violators,” Law Secretary Mansoor Ahmed told Reuters.
Mohsin Raza, director of news for the ARY One World channel, said suspension was a serious threat because of the disruption to vital advertising revenue. Raza told AP, “This is the worst tool the government is preparing.”