ISLAMABAD - Pakistan Electronic Media Regularity Authority (Pemra) said yesterday that its advisory was misinterpreted and by no mean it was to restrict freedom of expression.

In a new directive issued here, the Pemra said, “There is misinterpretation of above quoted Pemra advisory. By no means it was to restrict freedom of expression as being projected by few.”

It further said that advisory had been issued in line with existing Pemra laws, Electronic Media (programmes & advertisements) Code of Conduct-2015 and advisories issued from time to time on non-implementation of existing code of conduct vis-a-vis discussions on sub-judice matters.

“There is no advisory to ban participation of journalists in talk shows. There is no restriction on appearance of any number of anchors to do long duration group marathon transmission on a special current issue on their channels while also taking other relevant guests where required.”

It said, “Pemra is fully supportive of freedom of expression as enshrined in the Constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan with a role to regulate it within the bounds of Pemra laws and code of conduct. The content of Pemra advisory may be taken in the same spirit.”

Earlier, strongly condemning Pakistan Electronic Media Regularity Authority (Pemra) advisory, journalists and anchors had termed it dictatorial and vowed to resist any move to gag press.

On Sunday, Pemra had issued a directive saying, “Participants/ invitees should be selected with due care having credibility as fair and unbiased analysts with requisite knowledge and expertise on the subject matter. As per Pemra code of conduct, role of anchors is to moderate the programmes in an objective, unbiased and impartial manner, excluding themselves from their personal opinions, biases and judgements on any issue. Therefore, anchors hosting exclusive regular shows should not appear in talk shows whether own or other channels as subject matter expert.”

A statement issued by senior TV anchors said, “The latest restrictions by Pemra on anchors and journalists barring them from attending each other’s talk shows are arbitrary, dictatorial and an infringement on the freedom of expression as enshrined in the constitution. It is not Pemra’s jurisdiction to decide who should be guest speakers, experts and commentators on television shows. The culmination of this logic would be that the state decides who can speak and on what issue. The state and its institutions have no business invalidating journalists’ opinions and certifying who qualifies as analyst.”

It further said, “We see the Pemra notification as an attempt to curb fair criticism and dissent. It is part of the ongoing effort to curb media freedoms and growing restrictions on writers, academies, artists in the name of national interest.

We hold the Tehrik-e-lnsaaf government led by Prime Minister lmran Khan responsible. The elected government is constitutionally answerable to the acts of all institutions under the executive - no matter who is in the forefront or background.”

“We have ample material of increasing censorship, with daily instructions of what can and cannot be published or aired who can and cannot speak. We will resist and fight back. We remind the government of the long history of resistances of media in Pakistan. We have fought dictatorships for restoration of democracy and democratic values. We have fought against terrorism and extremism. We have lost lives of a 100 of our colleagues; faced hardships, threats, harassment and joblessness of thousands of journalists. We know how to fight.”

It also said, “Dissent and difference of opinion is critical for democracy to survive. To protect it, we will go to all lengths, even if we have to launch national and international campaigns.

At the end they demanded that the Pemra notification be withdrawn immediately and that the growing harassment and willful press advice to journalists be stopped.

There should be end to any direct or indirect coercion of journalists, said the statement.

On the other hand, Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Information and Broadcasting Dr. Firdous Ashiq Awan said in a tweet that no TV anchor had been stopped to express opinion.

She said they had their exclusive shows to discuss anything and everything. The advisory has been reiteration of existing code of conduct on court orders which needed to be taken care of to avoid conjecturing.