Pakistani media has always been through many difficult times
since the inception of country. Whether they are draconian laws by military regimes
or the demands of ban and from the various religious and political faction of
Pakistan news media, television and films often comes under the scissors of censors of which recent example is the orders to ban on-aired drama serial Jalan on ARY Digital by Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) under section 27 of PEMRA ordinance, because of containing material which is against the social and religious norms of our society. They claim to take this decision after getting many complaints from public and several warning to the channel regarding changes in the script of drama according to Pakistani culture.
Earlier, the authority issued notice to ban re runs of drama serials Ishqiya (ARY Digital) and Pyar Ke Sadqay (HUM TV) on the same grounds. The latter got huge ratings and popularity from public.
Two of these dramas tell the story of girls having a
fondness or affair with their brother in laws while one has a villain who
openly desires for her daughter in law.
The producers of Jalan wrote petition in Sindh High Court, which gave them stay order against the PEMRA’s decision and the transmission of the drama continues.
The question arise her do the PEMRA or other censor bodies
have the right to moral policing of the content on national media and or going
beyond the jurisdiction law has designated it.
Media Analyst and the then Minister of Information And
Broadcast Javed Jabbar, while talking to Pakistan Today exclusively on the role
of PEMRA said “PEMRA has the right to warn and ban content on electronic media
of country that is explicitly violent, vulgar and obscene in unusual way. But
in the case of the recent ban on dramas, it has mishandled and misused its
authority as none of these shows have any material which falls under the
explanation of ‘against religious and social norms’ in the draft of PEMRA.”
He further said that what PEMRA could do was to abide the
channels to mark it PG13 or PG18, if the program contain any sensational
content so the parents and viewers should be cautious before consuming it.
Jabbar was of the view that there was a certain segment of
society (a few in numbers) which is also political in nature shows their
concern about these things to demonstrate their nuisance value and these censor
boards and authorities instead of answering to their complaints, gets nervous
and starts issuing notice to channels and filmmakers.
“In general, Pakistani viewers are very liberal when it comes to the variety of content on media,” he added.
Renowned Historian and columnist Nadeem Farooq Paracha said
these kind of bans on drmas and films show the general middle class morality
Pakistan which is confused between modernity and religion.
About PEMRA, Paracha said according to law, the authority has
no right to intrude in what should and what should not be run on national
television channels and to point out someone’s creation as immoral and
“It is an open insult to the writers and viewers who have
written it and watched it.”
Farooq asked would bar dramas and films and other programs lessen
the ratio of consuming adult and porn material, abundantly available online or
are these dramas the reason of climbing rate of rape and divorces in society.
He said it reminds him of the draconian rule of General Zia-ul-Haq,
which had serious restriction and censors on state television and films.
“It shows incompetency of the government that instead of concerning about the real issues of country like health, education, utilities and law & order, asking PEMRA to issue notices to channels.”
Sultana Siddiqui, President Hum Network Limited, thought
that drama serial ‘Pyar Kay Sadqay’ was a piece of art and should be placed in
Siddiqui admitted that there must be some complaints about
the said drama and PEMRA might be playing its role but there should be some
logical support to their decisions.
“PEMRA also issued a letter ordering ban, when channel’s
drama serial on child sexual abuse Udaari was on aired but in the end, it was
called a historical play that raised the issue diligently. So the subject
itself is not bad or good but the way you execute it.”
Siddiqui explained that the serial Pyar Ke Sadqay brought up issues like the complications arise from a second marriage of a woman, indicating man entering the house with ill intentions, and to guide women to raise their voice when a man makes unwanted advances whether he is her father in law.
Absar Aalam, Former Chairman PEMRA said, “PEMRA has the
right to ban any program if it violates the interests for which the authority
has been made the custodian to protect.”
He explained the function of Council of Complaint (appointed
in Punjab and Sindh) under PEMRA which suggests that what action should be
taken in the specific case.
The former Chairman said that in his time, PEMRA received a
lot of complaints from public about Udaari, a drama serial on child sexual
abuse for “the longer scenes of committing crimes’ so they issued only show
cause notice to channel to cut those certain sequences short keeping the
context of story intact.