Monday, July 24, 2006
Islamabad (Reuters): Pakistani television channels have been told to stop showing gruesome pictures from accidents, bomb blasts and other violence, the chairman of the government's regulator said today. ''The government is keen to continue its liberal media policy, but we can't have channels broadcasting pictures of mutilated bodies and severed heads that have a shock effect on women and children,'' Ifthikar Rasheed, chairman of the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulating Authority (PEMRA), told Reuters. Last week, Pakistani news channels aired footage of the bloodied head of a suicide bomber lying on the pavement, after an attack that killed a prominent Shi'ite cleric and his young nephew in the southern city of Karachi. ''These sorts of pictures we believe glorify and preach violence,'' Rasheed said.
Suicide attacks and bomb blasts targetting religious congregations occur frequently in Pakistan, due partly to sectarian strife fuelled by Sunni Muslim extremist groups' hatred towards the Shi'ite Muslim minority. President Pervez Musharraf and Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz have also survived attacks by suicide bombers. Their government is in the midst of a struggle against homegrown militant groups who have fallen under the influence of al Qaeda since Musharraf's decision to join a global war on terrorism in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States.
PEMRA has also told more than two dozen channels operating that they should also avoid indecency that could offend people in Pakistan conservative, Muslim society. ''We have reminded them they need to self regulate and give balanced coverage. If the contents don't change then we have the instruments under the law to take action against such channels,'' Rasheed said. The electronic media in Pakistan has undergone a radical transformation under Musharraf's more liberal policies.
Around 30 channels have started operations in the past five years after a long period of strict censorship when state-run Pakistan Television was the only broadcaster. The newcomers range from news channels showing current affairs programmes that offer lively debates over government policies to some dedicated to religious affairs, broadcasting the sermons and lectures of Muslim preachers.