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IHC ordered formation of committee to monitor tv channels

18 March, 2017

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ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court on Friday, while hearing a case pertaining to the presence of 'blasphemous content' on social media, ordered the formation of a committee to monitor the content being aired on television channels as well.

Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui instructed Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) Chairman Absar Alam and DG Technical to be included in the committee that would oversee the content on morning shows, talk shows and other programmes being aired on television channels. The judge passed the order while hearing the case filed by Salman Shahid (son-in-law of Abdul Aziz of Lal Masjid fame). In his petition, Shahid had argued that the presence of blasphemous content on social media websites was 'hurting the religious sentiments of Muslims'. During Friday's hearing, the court ordered the relevant authorities to make all print and electronic media aware of Article 19 of the constitution which, while granting freedom of speech, restricts content against the glory of Islam and integrity, security or defence of Pakistan or against friendly relations with foreign states. The court told the PEMRA chairman that if Article 19 is included in the laws of the regularity body, licences of six to seven television channels will be cancelled. It directed that the committee should review advertisements and international content being aired on the television. "Obscene content - regardless of whether it comes from Saudi Arabia, Turkey or India… we don't need it," the judge told the chairman. "Why do we follow America and India?" he asked. The court was of the opinion that there was a well-thought agenda in practice to ruin the youth of this country. "Which non-governmental organisations are attempting to encourage sexual proclivity in Pakistan," the court questioned.

During a hearing of the case earlier this week, the FIA had told the court that the government has approached Facebook for access to the records of three controversial pages accused of spreading blasphemous content that were blocked by the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority. The FIA director also told the court that an application will be launched under international law if the Facebook administration failed to comply with the Pakistani government's request. The IHC has also ordered the government to put the names of those involved in posting blasphemous content on social media on the Exit Control List (ECL).

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