PAKISTAN MEDIA MONITOR – February 2022
A monthly report on trends relating to state of journalism and media rights, policies and practices
Media related laws, policies and regulations
The state of media professionalisms
The state of media economy
Threats and attacks against journalists and information practitioners
Vol. 3, No. 2 – February 2022 Edition
Produced by Freedom Network – www.fnpk.org
SECTION 1: Media related laws, policies, regulations, mechanisms
- Freedom of expression (FOE)
- Right to information (RTI), access to information (ATI)
- Federal and provincial governments (relevant ministries and departments)
- Media related regulators (PPC, PEMRA, PTA)
- Regulatory issues related to print, electronic and digital media
Date: February 12, 2022 – Source: The News
In its three years’ performance report, the Pakistan Information Commission (PIC) disclosed it has received the highest number of appeals (complaints) against the Ministry of Defense, followed by the Ministry of Law, the Supreme Court (SC) and the Islamabad High Court (IHC).
Date: February 20, 2022 – Source: Dawn
In another move to regulate social media in Pakistan despite criticism from stakeholders and digital rights activist, the federal government is set to promulgate a presidential ordinance declaring defamation of people and institutions on social media a cognizable offence.
Federal government toughens laws against online defamation, fake news
The federal government made changes in two laws that would pave the way for penalizing defamation against Pakistan’s armed forces, judiciary, public servants and government institutions.
Online defamation now a non-bailable offence in Pakistan
President Dr Arif Alvi promulgated an ordinance to amend the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act, 2016 (PECA) increasing the jail term from three to five years by making a change in Section 20 of the law and making online defamation a cognizable and non-bailable offence.
Date: February 22, 2022 – Source: Express Tribune
The federal government defended the newly promulgated ordinance amending the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (PECA) 2016 amid criticism from industry stakeholders and digital rights activists.
SECTION 2: The state of media professionalisms
- Media independence issues
- Public interest journalism practices and challenges
- Ethical journalism issues
- The state of thematic journalism
- Community-focused media
- Misinformation / disinformation / fake news
Trial proceedings begin in Altaf Hussain ‘hate speech’ case
Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) supremo Altaf Hussain went on trial on allegations of hate speech and inciting violence in Karachi during a speech in 2016 by the Crown Prosecution Services (CPS) while residing in London.
Date: February 3, 2022 – Source: Dawn
The Crown Prosecution Services (CPS) submitted evidence at the Kingston-upon-Thames crown court to support their case against Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) supremo Altaf Hussain, who faces charges of hate speech and inciting violence.
Date: February 4, 2022 – Source: Express Tribune
Islamabad High Court (IHC) Chief Justice Athar Minallah discouraged making provocative statements or hate speeches under the garb of freedom of speech.
Date: February 4, 2022 – Source: Dawn
The Kingston-upon-Thames crown court in London heard the prosecution’s opening statement in the incitement to violence trial involving former chief of the unified Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) Altaf Hussain.
Journalists injured during clash at the National Press Club
Journalists were injured during a clash between two rival groups competing for executive posts at the annual elections held inside the National Press Club in Islamabad.
Date: February 10, 2022 – Source: Express Tribune
Islamabad High Court’s (IHC) Chief Justice Athar Minallah said that The Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act, 2016 is being used to curb freedom of expression and stifle dissent in Pakistan.
Date: February 12, 2022 – Source: Express Tribune
News daily The Express Tribune retracted an earlier story about unearthing of ‘illegal refunds’ worth Rs16 billion on basis of being factually incorrect and apologized to former chairman of the Federal Bureau of Revenue (FBR) Shabbar Zaidi for misreporting.
PEMRA issues show-cause notice to news channel for airing derogatory remarks
The Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) issued a show-cause notice to television news channel News One for airing ‘derogatory remarks’ about Federal Minister for Communications Murad Saeed ‘without any editorial check’ in a program.
Jury in London finds Altaf Hussain not guilty of hate speech, encouraging terrorism
A jury in London found Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) supremo Altaf Hussain not guilty of hate speech and inciting terrorism in Karachi contrary to section 1(2) of United Kingdom’s Terrorism Act, 2006.
Date: February 17, 2022 – Source: Dawn
Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) leader Aliya Hamza Malik filed two petitions with Pakistan Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) and the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) against Maryam Nawaz for being involved in ‘blackmailing’ media and patronizing unethical trends on social media.
Date: February 17, 2022 – Source: The News
Chairman Senate Standing Committee on Information and Broadcasting Senator Faisal Javed urged the parliament to strengthen libel and defamation laws to keep check on fake news on social and conventional media.
Date: February 18, 2022 – Source: Dawn
Federal Minister for Communications Murad Saeed announced to sue journalist Reham Khan for mentioning ‘illicit’ relations between him and Prime Minister Imran Khan in a book she wrote three years ago.
Date: February 18, 2022 – Source: Express Tribune
The Islamabad High Court (IHC) sought assistance from the Attorney General of Pakistan (AGP) while hearing an application on the protection of journalists’ rights as amicus curiae Hamid Mir appeared before the court and said that research work on the protection of journalists had been submitted.
Date: February 21, 2022 – Source: Dawn
The Prevention of Electronic Crimes (Amendment) Act Ordinance 2022 is likely to open floodgates of cases against ‘controversial’ social media content, as it has not only made online defamation a cognizable offense but also broadened the ambit of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA).
Journalists suspend dialogue with government as new ordinance challenged in courts
A joint committee of Pakistani media bodies suspended its dialogue with the federal government over a new amendment to the country’s social media laws, as the legislation was challenged in Islamabad and Lahore high courts.
Date: February 22, 2022 – Source: Business Standard (BS)
Pakistan’s political opposition and media bodies rejected the toughening of the country’s social media laws approved by President Dr Arif Alvi and termed it an attack on freedom of expression.
Date: February 23, 2022 – Source: Nikkei Asia
Pakistan moved to tighten up a controversial cybercrime law in order ostensibly to tackle fake news and defamation on social media, but media organizations and rights activists said it could target opposition critics and stifle freedom of speech.
Date: February 24, 2022 – Source: Express Tribune
The Islamabad High Court (IHC) restrained the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) from arresting anyone under Section 20 of the recently promulgated amended Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (PECA) ordinance.
Date: February 24, 2022 – Source: Dawn
In a letter to Prime Minister Imran Khan, Federal Minister for Information Technology and Telecommunication Syed Amin-ul-Haq suggested that consultation with the civil society and stakeholders should be undertaken and requested the PECA ordinance to be withdrawn.
Government seeks time to check abuse of power under PECA law
The federal government seems to have woken up to the fact that promulgation of a controversial presidential ordinance amending the cybercrime law was ill-timed, as it sought time from the Islamabad High Court (IHC) to check abuse of power of arrests by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA).
Date: February 26, 2022 – Source: Express Tribune
Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari met with office-bearers of the Joint Action Committee (JAC) and reaffirmed his party’s commitment towards ensuring press freedom and media independence in the country.
MQM-P vows to support Joint Action Committee on press freedom
Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) convener Dr Khalid Maqbool met with a delegation of the Joint Action Committee (JAC) and termed the amendment to the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (PECA) via an ordinance ‘a curb on the fundamental right to freedom of expression’ in the country.
Federal minister serves legal notice to journalist over ‘propaganda’
Federal Minister for Communications and Postal Services Murad Saeed sent a legal notice to journalist Reham Khan on charges of ‘slander and dirty propaganda’ after controversial contents of her book were quoted on television talk shows.
SECTION 3: The state of media economy
- Economic landscape of media industry
- Impact of Covid-19 on media resilience and sustainability
- Government and private advertising for media industry
- Advertising sector and its interface with media industry
- Business viability and sustainability of media
- Wages, salaries and arrears of journalists and media practitioners
Date: February 9, 2022 – Source: The News
The additional and sessions court decreed against a private television channel and its news show host in a defamation case and directed them to pay Rs10 million to Member of Parliament Sindh Assembly Saeed Ghani.
SECTION 4: Threats and attacks against media and information practitioners, including online
- Murders and killings
- Kidnappings and abductions
- Arrests and detentions
- Threats – verbal and written
- Harassment and intimidation – offline and online
- Surveillance, hacking and data breaches
- Legal cases for journalism-related work or free speech
- Impunity of crimes against journalists
Date: February 1, 2022 – Source: Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)
An anti-terrorism court in Lahore handed over four accused involved in the killing of journalist Husnain Shah to police on a 14-day physical remand.
Date: February 1, 2022 – Source: Dawn
According to a report released by the Council of Pakistan Newspaper Editors (CPNE), the state of media freedom in Pakistan worsened in the country during 2021. The report expressed concern over increasing attempts to stifle the media and negate the right of access to information (RTI).
Media owner acquitted in land allotment case
An accountability court in Lahore acquitted Editor-in-Chief of Jang/Geo group Mir Shakil-ur-Rehman and two former officers of the Lahore Development Authority (LDA) in a reference of a 34-year old ‘illegal’ land allotment.
Date: February 2, 2022 – Source: Dawn
The media freedom report compiled by the Council of Pakistan Newspaper Editors (CPNE) paints an abysmal picture of the realities of being a journalist in the country. It highlights how, during 2021 alone, five journalists in the line of duty and how attempts continue at stifling freedom of expression.
Date: February 3, 2022 – Source: The News
The Pakistan Media Freedom Report 2021 released by the Council of Pakistan Editors (CPNE) paints a portrait of a media landscape that is unremittingly grim, with space for free expression having shrunk even further under the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) government.
Date: February 9, 2022 – Source: Express Tribune
Sindh Information and Labor Minister Saeed Ghani reiterated that the provincial government will be formed to implement the law to protect media persons against harassment and violence while performing their professional duties.
Date: February 13, 2022 – Source: Dawn
News One, a private television channel, was taken off air by cable networks before issuance of a show-cause notice and completion of legal formalities by the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) for airing ‘derogatory remarks’ about a federal minister.
Islamabad High Court seeks AGP’s help in missing journalist case
The Islamabad High Court (IHC) sought Attorney General of Pakistan’s (AGP) help in the case of missing journalist Mudassar Naro, directing the Commission of Inquiry in Enforced Disappearances to submit a detailed report on the missing persons’ cases and its Terms of References (TORs).
Five intelligence officials suspended for torturing television show host
Five officials of the Intelligence Bureau (IB) were suspended on the allegations of illegally detaining and torturing private television host Iqrar-ul-Hassan and his team for hours at their office in Karachi.
FIA arrests media owner on federal minister’s complaint
Police and officials of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) raided the home of the Online News Agency’s (ONA) owner Mohsin Baig and arrested him after Federal Minister for Communications Murad Saeed lodged a complaint regarding defamatory remarks.
Date: February 18, 2022 – Source: The News
Advocate General (AG) Islamabad Niazullah Niazi announced the federal government’s decision to send a reference against the additional sessions judge for declaring the raid of Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) ‘illegal’ to arrest media owner and journalist Mohsin Baig.
Date: February 18, 2022 – Source: Dawn
The capital police also arrested domestic staff members of media owner and journalist Mohsin Baig in connection with a case registered over an alleged attack on a team of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) who had gone to his house to arrest him.
Date: February 19, 2022 – Source: Dawn
The federal government decided to defer the filing of a complaint against an Islamabad additional district and sessions judge for allegedly giving a biased judgement in a matter relating to the arrest and detention of media owner Mohsin Baig.
Journalist shot dead by robbers in Karachi
Journalist Athar Mateen, working as a producer for a private news channel, was shot dead during a botched robbery. He was gunned down after he rammed his vehicle into the motorbike of robbers who were looting a citizen.
Date: February 19, 2022 – Source: The News
The Federal Investigation Agency’s (FIA) Anti-Corruption Circle (ACC) in Karachi registered another case against journalist and media owner Mohsin Baig under the allegations of interference in a case under investigation by the FIA officials, money laundering and others.
Date: February 20, 2022 – Source: Dawn
The district magistrate initiated a judicial inquiry into alleged manhandling and torturing of media owner and journalist Mohsin Baig in police custody and refusal to give him access to a lawyer.
Date: February 22, 2022 – Source: Dawn
The Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) government triggered another controversy by promulgating a presidential ordinance that is a clear threat to freedom of expression in the country.
Date: February 28, 2022 – Source: Foreign Policy (FP)
Pakistan’s government is tightening its control of media with laws and oversight bodies that critics say enhance its power to censor and punish journalists. New laws potentially extend control to social media, snuffing out investigative journalism and critical commentary.
OBJECTIVES: This series of monthly report aims to:
- Monitor the state of policies, regulations and mechanisms governing the media sector in Pakistan; the state of freedom of expression and right to information environment in the country and how these interfaces with media freedoms allowed or restricted via media regulations governed by the print, electronic and internet regulators.
- Track the state of media professionalisms in the country including ethical and public interest journalism practices and challenges, and the challenges of misinformation, disinformation and fake news phenomena.
- Follow the changing economic dynamics of the media industry and how they impact the business viability and sustainability of media and exploitation of media staff in lieu of their wages and arrears.
- Scrutinize threats and attacks against media and information practitioners, the state of impunity of crimes against journalists and efforts to provide justice for those aggrieved and distressed.
INFORMATION SOURCES: This report monitors, among others, the following sources of information:
- Government: Federal and provincial cabinets
- Ministries: Related ministries, including Information and Broadcasting, Information Technology (IT) and Telecom, Human Rights, Science and Technology, Commerce and Industry, etc.
- Legislatures: Senate, National Assembly, provincial assemblies, relevant standing committees
- Regulators: Pakistan telecommunications Authority (PTA), Pakistan Electronic Media regulatory Authority (PEMRA), Press Council of Pakistan (PPC), State Bank of Pakistan (SBP), etc.
- Global organizations: UN/Unesco, International Media Support (IMS), Reporters Without Borders (RSF), International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Amnesty International (AI), Human Rights Watch (HRW), etc.
- National organizations: Digital Rights Foundation (DRF), BoloBhi, Media Matters for Democracy (MMFD), Institute for Research, Advocacy and Development (IRADA), Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), etc.
- Media: Dawn, The News, Express Tribune, The Nation, Pakistan Today, The Friday Times, etc.
- Social Media: Facebook, Twitter, etc.
- Local networks: Journalists Safety Hubs Network, Alliance on Diversity & Pluralism in Media, etc.
- Any other open public information sources.