Controversial Pakistani TV personality Aamir Liaquat Husain has defied an order from the country’s broadcast media regulator that banned him from appearing on his show for hate speech.
The Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) also issued orders for stopping the broadcast of Husain’s show after he accused liberal activists and others of blasphemy, an allegation that could put their lives at risk.
Instead of bowing to PEMRA, Husain appeared on his show on Bol TV on Thursday night. He also hurled abuse at the regulator and criticised its decision to take his show off the air.
As a result, Bol TV was taken off-air in some parts of the country, while the show was broadcast uninterrupted in other areas.
The action was taken to prevent a panic-like situation in society and immediately stop something that is against the Constitution, a PEMRA official said. Apart from receiving hundreds of complaints regarding hate speech by Husain, the authority had monitored his programme from January 2 to January 24.
PEMRA said its ban will remain in place until its councils of complaints in Islamabad, Lahore and Karachi make recommendations for a final decision.
The regulator said in its order that Husain violated clauses dealing with the airing of material that “amounts to intimidation, blackmail or false incrimination of any person” and ensuring that any “programme does not debase a person or group of persons”.
Over the past few days, Husain had been at odds with other TV anchors and social media activists, going as far as declaring a large chunk of journalists and civil society activists as “non-Muslims”, “infidels”, “enemies of Islam” and “Indian agents”.
Husain had also accused Pakistan Cricket Board chairman Najam Sethi, a noted journalist, of “loving India” and SAFMA secretary general Imtiaz Alam for “promoting the RAW agenda in Pakistan”.
His tirades began after five liberal activists were reported missing in early January, and Husain attacked other activists protesting over the issue on his show. In recent shows, Husain took aim at Jibran Nasir, a Karachi-based lawyer who campaigning for the recovery of the missing activists.
Nasir filed a complaint with police, naming dozens of journalists and activists whom Husain had targeted without any proof. He said Husain had levelled allegations of blasphemy against him and the five missing activists, while glorifying their abduction.
Rawalpindi police have registered a case against Husain under the Anti-Terrorism Act for hate speech and threatening Nasir’s life.
Without naming Husain, the All Pakistan Newspapers Society expressed concern over “unscrupulous outbursts of baseless allegations and hate mongering on a satellite channel against journalists, publishers and editors”. It said in a statement that the hate speech could “incite violence by labelling media persons as anti-Islam and anti-Pakistan, consequently putting their lives in danger”.
The newspapers welcomed PEMRA’s decision and urged the government to take steps to stop such trends in the electronic media.
In a separate statement, more than 100 editors, columnists and journalists too condemned the hate speech and incitement to violence by Husain, saying it appeared he was running a campaign against many respected journalists out of enmity.