‘Let journalists do their jobs’: Amnesty slams Pakistan ban on TV show

The regulatory body also banned journalist Kashif Abbasi from also hosting any show.
Pakistan minister Faisal Vawda with the boot on the talk show(YouTube)
Pakistan minister Faisal Vawda with the boot on the talk show(YouTube)
Updated on Jan 16, 2020 02:59 PM IST
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Hindustan Times, New Delhi | ByHT Correspondent

Rights group Amnesty International on Thursday slammed the 60-day ban on a talk show in Pakistan by the country’s Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA).

“The two-month ban is a violation of Kashif Abbasi’s right to freedom of expression,” Amnesty said. “Journalists in Pakistan should be allowed to do their jobs freely and without fear. The ban must be lifted immediately,” it added. 

The PEMRA on Wednesday issued the notice to talk show ‘Off the Record’ aired on channel ARY News for “willful attempt to debase and demean a state institution by dragging it unnecessarily in a debate”.

According to the order, the airing of such content violated the PERMA code of conduct adding that the host of the show Kashif Abbasi was quite unprofessional who actually did not intervene or stop the unethical act performed by one of the panellists, Federal Minister Faisal Vawda during a live show.

Vawda participated in a debate on the show along with two members of the Opposition - PPP leader Qamar Zaman Kaira and PML-N leader Javed Abbasi. In the middle of the show, the minister took out an army boot he had apparently brought along with him and placed it on the table.

Pakistan media reported that the discussion was about the Army Act recently passed by Parliament. Ridiculing the Opposition, which had backed the bill, Vawda said, “Shameless people stoop to any level.”

“You (the PML-N) should have given it respect earlier like we have been doing. You are talking against them (armed forces’ personnel) even when they embraced martyrdom. Today, when it comes to their loot and plunder, Maryam Nawaz and Nawaz Sharif should hold this (the boot) and tell the people that we will respect the boot and do everything,” the minister added.

Kaira and Abbasi walked out in protest.

Since then, Vawda has been continuously ridiculed and the Abbasi is being blamed for allowing the minister to bring the boot on the set. In another show, Vawda defended his action as a “mirror to Opposition, especially PML-N, for opposing and vilifying army” but lying down to support the law.

He, however, said that Prime Minister Imran Khan “disliked the boot thing” in the show.

The order by PEMRA pointed out that the host of the show took the entire incident “casually” and kept cherishing it.

The regulatory body also banned Abbasi from also hosting any show or from appearing on ‘ARY News’ channel or participate as a guest/expert/analyst in any other television channel.

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