Saying it has “alarming news”, an editorial in the News International Sunday cited reports as saying that the Pakistan Peoples Party government has plans to impose tough curbs on the media ahead of any general elections.
“This of course would be a replication of the measures taken by General Pervez Musharraf in his final days – in blatant violation of the constitution. The purpose obviously is to prevent material which can discredit the government from making it to the people,” it said.
It said that a meeting to be held Feb 27 to approve a new set of regulations which, among other things, will propose that live shows be put on a system of ‘delay’, that their content be conveyed in advance to the regulatory authorities and that anchor persons demonstrate ‘balance’ and steer clear of sub-judice matters.
“All this can, of course, be open to very wide interpretation and lead to a whole host of restrictions; and restriction on access to information is exactly the purpose behind the whole exercise that has been planned with the meeting to be presided over by Information Minister Firdaus Ashiq Awan,” said the editorial.
It went on to say that even “more absurd are the curbs being planned on the airing of ‘gloomy’ or ‘dismal’ news or ‘sensationalisation’ of events”.
“Once again, it’s the government authorities who will define what is gloomy, dismal or sensational.
“It is virtually impossible in our country to escape bad news given all that is happening. We do not know how television channels can be expected to achieve this,” it wondered.
Other measures planned include steps to prevent newsreaders from making comments or offering analysis.
Criticising the government, the editorial said: “We know that the set up which has ruled since 2008 has a great deal that it would love to hide, and the very last thing it would want is for the many misdeeds of all these years to be highlighted as the time for polling approaches”.
“It seems even a government that has made repeated claims of standing for democracy cares nothing about this and is eager only to protect itself through force. It is, yet again, time for the media to stand fast and firm in the face of power and coercion,” it added.