ISLAMABAD - The standing committee on information, broadcasting and national heritage on Tuesday presented a set of proposed changes to existing laws and regulations governing public discourse and behaviour on broadcast and social media.

The committee discussed war time recommendations for the media and an effective set of mechanisms to counter the narrative of violent extremists and terrorists in Pakistan. The meeting of the committee was presided over by Member National Assembly (MNA) Marvi Memon. The meeting was attended by MNAs Mian Muhammad Farooq, Muhammad Tallal Chaudry, Parveen Masood Bhatti, Ghulam Bibi Bharwana, Zeb Jaffer, Syed Amir Ali Shah Jamote, Imran Zafar Leghari, and Malik Muhammad Aamir Dogar.

The changes proposed by the committee were drafted on the basis of the recommendations made in its previous meeting. A thorough discussion of each proposed change took place in the meeting.

Representatives from the Pakistan Broadcasters Association (PBA), All Pakistan Newspapers Society (APNS), Council of Pakistan Newspaper Editors (CPNE) as well as experts on the media and public discourse participated in a rigorous debate. A number of executive agencies were represented and asked to explain various facets of their working. These included the ministry of information, broadcasting & national heritage, Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA), ministry of information technology & telecommunication, and Pakistan Telecommunications Authority (PTA).

Among the issues discussed were the range of pre-existing sections of laws that, if implemented, would constrain the space for violent extremism and terrorism in the national discourse, such as Section 123 of the Pakistan Penal Code and Section 27 of the PEMRA Ordinance 2002.

One of the major issues discussed was how to ensure that 10% of the programming of channels would be dedicated to public service messaging as per existing law.  The committee asked PEMRA and broadcasters to devise a way to agree on the specific mechanism of determining what constituted public service messaging, as there was substantial disagreement on this point. In addition, the members of the committee and other participants discussed proposals to restrict the broadcast any “direct and quoted statements, confessions, and threats of violence.”

The committee’s other recommendations included limiting the sensationalism of violence and brutalities and a range of other ideas about how to restrict and constrain the room for violent extremism. The PBA, CPNE and APNS representatives shared a number of reservations and expressed concerns over some of the recommendations. The committee expressed strong resolve to propose changes that would be effective, but stated its will to ensure that all stakeholders felt ownership of the process and the outcomes.

The secretary ministry of information, broadcasting and national heritage along with PEMRA representatives and the stakeholders agreed to resolve the following issues within 15 working days including formulation of a media code of conduct, acceptable to both the regulator and broadcasters, the broadcasters would fulfil their legal obligation to provide the names of members of the editorial boards of the respective channels to PEMRA and to facilitate the inspection of the channels’ delay mechanism equipment and resolution of the exact and specific definition of “glorification” of terror acts, so that there is no confusion for broadcasters.