Islamabad, Mar 5 : In what appears to be a reversal of his last year's decision, Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf has given his silent nod for PEMRA's (Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority) return to the cabinet division under the direct control of the prime minister office.
In 2007, it was shifted to the Information Ministry to be used to by the President's Secretariat for excessive control over the media.
The move assumes significance in the backdrop of the Pakistan People's Party Co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari's assurance that he would make PEMRA fully autonomous when his party forms the next government. Zardari has expressed his resolve more than once that there would be no government control on the media, both electronic and print.
In a surprise move PEMRA was shifted from the cabinet division to the Information Ministry in 2007. It was seen a consequence of a verbal directive issued by the presidency to tighten control over the electronic media.
The cabinet division has moved a summary to the prime minister to get back control over the Authority from the ministry because it was argued that interference from the parent ministry in its affairs was "unavoidable", reported The News.
PEMRA was established on March 1, 2002 through an ordinance. It was initially placed under the information ministry but was later shifted to the cabinet division in line with the government's policy of ensuring the neutrality of regulatory authorities.
However, in a surprise move and without proper consultation, Pemra was brought back under the control of the information ministry in 2007. The rationale behind the move was to tame the electronic media through the time-tested arm-twisting techniques of the information ministry. On and after Nov 3, 2007 PEMRA's partiality became all the more obvious when without any prior notice it blacked out all private television channels throughout the country.
Pemra's primary role is to facilitate the growth of electronic media and to regulate its operations. However, because of last year's judicial crisis and the May 12 Karachi killings the government had assigned a much more stringent role to Pemra which, under the written government policy, is supposed to regulate the media in the backdrop of our cultural, social and religious values.