Pak Govt's move to muzzle media ignites fears of censorship

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Islamabad, July 2 (ANI): The Pakistan government's decision to muzzle the country's media by limiting the coverage of terror attacks and criticism of the state has caused major consternation in the media fraternity.

According to reports, the government is in the process of finalising a regulation under which the television channels would be barred from showing images or programmes on suicide bombings, terrorists or the bodies of victims of terror attacks, and such other related material.

It would also prohibit statements from Islamist militants and any acts, which promote, aid or abet terrorist or terrorism. The media industry also has to assure the government that none of its programmes will promote hatred or militancy.

The proposed bill is slated to be tabled in the National Assembly later this year, but the media community, both national and international, have voiced severe discontent.

"It is very uncommon for democratic countries to legislate sweeping bans on what the media can cover when it comes to terrorism, although Iraq has imposed vague rules that prohibit broadcast reports that cause incitement of sectarianism," said Joel Simon, executive director of the US-based Committee to Protect Journalists.

Vincent Brossel, Asia director for the Paris-based Reporters Without Borders, called for self-regulation by the media itself.

Leading Pakistani television channels have agreed not to broadcast graphic and disturbing images and use a delay mechanism that would enable channels to edit out undesirable footage, however, the steps did not prevent Pakistani parliamentarians from moving ahead with the bill.

Journalists said that they had not even seen the draft of the proposed bill, which they called a move towards 'censorship'.

"We have not seen even a draft of this so-called code of conduct for the electronic media. "We are not against a code of conduct for the electronic media, but all stake-holders should be taken into confidence," The Dawn quoted Pervez Shaukat, the head of the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists, as saying.

The sudden move to stifle country's media sounds "fishy", said Mazhar Abbas, deputy director of news and current affairs, ARY channel.

"The media will not accept any form of suppression from the government," Abbas added. (ANI)

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