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Freedom of Speech- where the line should be drawn

With advancement of technology, huge numbers of private media houses have emerged all over the world, social media has taken a new life and a new war of words has started. Nations, that were strong and vigilant, sensed the implications of the media growth in the beginning hence they tamed or regulated their policies in a way that now they work together on important issues and don’t allow anyone to speak out against their country. It helps them to secure their own interests and promotes a sense of patriotism in them.

Media is the most important medium to feed the thought process of the masses. Its reach is so great that it helps in shaping up the opinion of the masses on a particular aspect. If you observe global media leaders like BBC or CNN you will never see them talking against their national interests or damaging the image of their institutions. They always talk about policies that how it will affect people and what needs to be done for the general well-being of their state. They always take credible people of respective fields in their shows to discuss important issues.

On the contrary these countries also taught different definitions of Freedom of Speech to Pakistani media, mainly that everyone should be allowed to express their views openly (regardless of the fact that it goes against the country, its policies or its institutions). Along these lines, we saw non-state actors and anti-state elements were given full time and coverage in the local private media to put their viewpoint forward. The most recent case is the murder of Ms Sabeen Mahmud, how quickly they gave it coverage to exploit to the maximum. The more you talk against your own country in the local media, the more you get noticed by the foreign media and you may end up becoming their foreign correspondent as your view favors their agenda.

Started by a prominent local news channel, it has become a trend now to accuse our own institutions and law enforcement agencies and create doubt and confusion about their intent. It is becoming quite clear how these media houses are working on the behest of their bosses, who obtain foreign funding to shape up opinions according to their wishes. Rather than promoting our own work these channels promote Indian content to create goodwill for them and thus it moulds hearts in their favor. Celebrating birthdays of Indian celebrities in prime time news and ignoring our heroes who laid their lives for the motherland is evident of their mala fide intentions. Through constantly broadcasting Indian content in news and in entertainment channels, they are damaging our social fiber and cultural norms as their practices are totally different from that of ours.

The silence of PEMRA is a big question mark here. Foreign influence in it through international media associations is quite visible now that keeps the body silent from taking action against the media houses for breaching the law. They have their like-minded people in it to facilitate them. The evident of it is, no action against a prominent local news channel for its baseless allegations on ISI chief last year and ignorance on giving excess air time to foreign content particularly Indian.

National Action Plan should include other factions of the society as well that are creating chaos and disturbance in the country in their own way. A cleanup operation is badly needed in media across all levels. PEMRA needs overhauling that would make it functional and active, to regulate media houses and define lines for them to operate within. Priority should be given to our own local content; no foreign content should be allowed prime time.

Basic point should be made clear to all that national interest, social & cultural norms should be protected at all costs and no one would be allowed to damage it in the name of freedom of speech.

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