IHC warns TV hosts to maintain decorum during Ramzan or face life ban


–Justice Siddiqui takes exception to ‘circus’ introduced by Aamir Liaqat Hussain during Ramzan transmissions 


ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Wednesday warned several popular television hosts to maintain decorum during Ramzan transmissions and morning shows during the holy month or face a ban for life.

Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui, who was hearing a case concerning the implementation of the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority’s (PEMRA) code of conduct for Ramzan transmissions and morning shows, took strong exception to the “circus” that programmes fronted by hosts including Dr Amir Liaquat, Sahir Lodhi, Fahad Mustafa and Waseem Badami had become in recent times.

“Dr Amir Liaquat introduced the culture of romping around [during Ramazan transmissions] and all others have started imitating him,” he observed.

“We will not allow such things in Sehr and Iftar transmissions,” he asserted.

Justice Siddiqui pointed out that while foreign experts are hired to provide detailed analysis during cricket matches, artists and cricketers are permitted to appear on TV shows to speak about matters of religion. He said only religious scholars holding no less than a PhD degree should be permitted to speak on such subjects, adding that separate instructions would be issued to eight channels falling under the terrestrial broadcaster, Pakistan Television.

“If discussions against institutions can be censored, then why can’t discussions against religion be censored?” he wondered.

“What a strange spectacle it is that Hamds, Naats and recitation of the Holy Quran are being aired to music,” the judge noted.

He also directed that only the Darood Sharif or Qaseeda Burda Shareef be aired five minutes prior to the call for Maghrib prayers instead of advertisements.

In Tuesday’s hearing of the case, Justice Siddiqui had ordered PEMRA to provide details of how many of the 117 channels operating in Pakistan air the call to prayer.

On Wednesday, the PEMRA director general operations presented a report in court on the matter which said that only three channels have been airing the call to prayer.

He told the court that action was being taken against all channels violating the regulatory body’s code of conduct.

Pakistan Broadcasters Association (PBA) counsel Ali Zafar told the court that all channels have been operating as per the Constitution and PEMRA’s code of conduct. He requested the court to refrain from issuing a “general” order, and instead direct PEMRA to ensure implementation of its code of conduct.

Justice Siddiqui also asked who is airing Indian channels in Pakistan, and ordered a report to be submitted on the matter in court.

The judge reserved his decision after hearing arguments from PEMRA, PBA and Paksat — all of whose representatives were present in court — adding that he is not in the habit of issuing orders which he cannot get implemented.