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The Mass Media Laws In Pakistan Media Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Media
Wordcount: 5427 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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The Mass Media do not exist separately from the other institution in the society. The Mass Media are necessary part of the processes of social change and maintenance. They have ability to revolutionize any other estate of the country. This aptitude of media has been usually taken as a threat by other estates. Particularly political mechanism of many countries of the world felt bullying from free media. To secure their regimes from media threats they curbed the voice of media with some legal checks and bounds. The interesting fact is that the regulatory measures to secure other estates by restricting media freedom are tagged “Media Laws”.

‘Media law’ is a term used for a mix of more traditional categories of law with a focus on providing legal services to the communication industry. The write up enlightens that whether Pakistani Media laws are facilitating media by providing services to communication industry or acting as a barrier in the way of information flow.

Pakistani Governments have been formulating such kind of laws for media from very beginning of media origin in the country. Even Popular democratic regimes in the country felt to curb media freedom through legal and even illegal checks. The study focuses on why do they need media laws? What are they? How these laws are functioning? The important aspect of the paper is to find out even a single law that is formulated to secure or strengthen Mass Media Networks of the state.

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Historical Perspective:

History of media laws in Pakistan is quite interesting. Interesting in a sense that media laws were originated according to the requirement of state of affairs threatening to the running political body’s influence or reputation. These laws were formulated by different regimes when some critical issues were arisen, the governments muted media voice through the remote of law in order to cover their faults.

Media as fourth estate are working effectively to influence public opinion. There is strong relationship between opinion formation of masses and media reports. Most of the governments take this relationship as a menace for their power. They have a view that media are naïve, they are not properly aware with the use of power. So there must be some regulatory measure for their power balance.

Political instability in Pakistan affected the Media enormously. All branches of media were affected but print media suffered badly. Although, it was declared many times in constitution that “freedom of speech and expression” would be provided to the media.

However, this rule was never truly implemented and many political leaders banned the press during their regime. In constitution of 1956, an article specifically devoted to freedom of speech was included. The 1956 constitution lasted less than three years and was abrogated in October 1958 by the imposition of marshal law. With the removal of marshal law in 1962, a new constitution was enforced which sustained with the recognition of initial concept of freedom of expression. But actually, a military ruler imposed the constitution, which was completely devoid of laws of freedom. However, the strong reaction of press and public resulted in constitutional amendment#1 to the 1962 constitution and in 1963; the press and publication ordinance came into organism. Press and Publication Ordinance contained harshest of laws restraining freedom of expression and the progressive progress of media. But soon in March 1969, General Yahya Khan imposed martial law and tried to curb media freedom by introducing the system of press Advice given by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting in order to avoid publication of anti government material. During this phase, the publications with independent and progressive views were taken over by the authorities. Finally the National Press Trust acted as a front to control press by taking over these journals.

Western Pakistan maintenance of Public order ordinance formulated in order to merge into one law various stipulations for ‘defensive custody of people’ and ‘control of persons and publications with the help of bridle of public order’ and maintain the device of subjugation. In 1963 and 1964 with some modifications this law authorized government to restrict the printing of publications, to enter and search premises and to forbid trade in of newspapers, among other measures. These measures have been used by different governments until the government of Musharraf.

At the time of “Administrative and economical breakdown” in 1961, the government took over the main news agency Associated Press of Pakistan in order to manipulate news flow. Government took it as an opportunity to filter the news items that was supplied to print, electronic, and even international media. Rather than giving chance to private venture to make better the performance of news agency, the government abruptly muscled in to regulate flow of information.

The Press can not compromise with its freedom and started mutiny against the establishment by providing substitute sources for news gathering. The complementary source was the establishment of independent press. This bold step taken by press show rigid aspiration of journalists’ community for free media.

Pakistan’s first civilian Chief and President Mr Zulfikar Ali Bhutto also proved impatient ruler when respond very robustly to some anarchistic press reports by various members of press, also muted free voices and jailed some editors and publishers on the basis of alleged reason of national security.

Democracy or Discrepancy:

Mass Media organizations of the world are diverse and this diversity depends on the degree of enthusiasm to media reports by political elites. The societies following communism and totalitarianism generally have restrictions of what the media could represent about the government. On the other hand, the societies following a Bourgeois Democracy have not much more limitations.

We find discrepancy while comparing the stance, of other democratic regimes, on media freedom with our own democratic regimes. Although Bhutto government was representing democracy, but it was stained by some dictatorial strokes on media landscapes. The new establishment, although originated on the foundations of democracy, freedom of speech and human rights, could not serve the purpose. As did the National Press Trust, the Press and Public Ordinance remained. The alternative news agency of government-owned Agency (APP), Pakistan Press International, was brought under government’s control through use of force and authority.

Government’s Secrecy and Media Disclosure:

Governments operate in secrecy; media live by disclosure. The difference among operating system of both of the estates contradicts when any kind of instability occurs in one of the above systems. Or any pillar of state misuses its power. Same happened in 1977, when the martial law was implemented. The naïve government endeavored to work in secrecy, for this purpose the authorities curbed the media freedom badly. The media were suppressed in advance, so that any kind of intrusion in government’s way can be avoided. In the era of Zia’s rule journalists’ abuse became public rather than covert. Many journalists were thrashed publicly; it was practiced frequently till the end of the government. From 1977 to August 1988 Media gone through a spectacular oppressions, the only positive change of that era was News Agency PPI were handed over back to its private sector ventures. Since then PPI is working effectively as an alternative source of news to the state owned news agency Associated Press of Pakistan

The new democratic body came into power in 1985, but the laws for mass media remained the same.

Blazing a tiny trail:

The press law, acting as a barrier in the way of press freedom, was repealed by a new caretaker government. No doubt it was an absolute shift to democracy. This step was taken as good sign for press future and provided the latitudinal setting for media. Although it was a tiny trail in the journey of media practitioners to freedom of expression but it is blazing in murky of black laws.

The regulation, Registration of Printing Presses and Publications Ordinance that was promulgated in 1988, It was being altered in a way that the government’s interference in media was stopped. District Magistrate was authorized to give a receipt to a candidate for the issuance of statement for owing a printing press or publication of a journal to make available the applicant with evidence that would help avoid government intervention.

In this way the governmental and other political pressures on media were abridged considerably. Moreover, newspapers get rid of compulsion to publish in full press notes issued by the government; they were given liberty to publish what they want.

Although Supreme Court ruled the amendment, in law of 1988, illegal, but it was changed according to the wish of representative bodies of press. Due to a variety of reasons journalists community appealed to revise the law, they were obliged by bringing a key change in the law. The key change was stopping the regime to muscle in media affairs.

A New Chapter; Old Contents:

During Benazir’s second term in office the independent press started highlighting and assailing charges of rampant corruption at the highest levels she hit back by proposing to bring on the statute books a new law to establish press courts in order to ensure that the so-called “irresponsible” and “malicious” journalism was effectively curbed. As Burhanuddine Hassan writes “this devilish scheme was probably worse than any move ever made even in worst periods of media repression” (Hassan, 2000, p. 264).

In this way the new chapter brought old contents with it, due to different pressures media returned to conventions after only four months. The so-called democratic government reversed all the moves leading to freedom of expression.

The positive step of this regime was approval of importing newsprint at market prices.

But in 1990, Mian Nawaz Sharif took over the approval for some unknown reasons.

During this regime freedom of media was curbed by conventions. Media and journalists have to face a lot of pressures and threats.

Another phase of liberalism:

Musharraf s’ government was seemed to having view of media liberty; there were less restrictions with few regulatory measures. But this liberal policy was spoiled at the end of the regime, when some critical issues were aroused. In order to respond these issues Musharraf grasped the neck of media by implementing the state of emergency.

This is worthy to note that freedom of media in this era was actually consequence of globalization and impact of technological advancement in communication sector.

History depicts that almost each and every government of Pakistan felt to curb media freedom in order to strengthen their regime. For this purpose they formulated laws for mass media, which acted for a long time as defender for regimes and bully for Media organizations.

Other Pressures on Media:

Governmental actions have encouraged non official groups to adopt uncivil and non legal means to deal with the media. The media in general and the press in particular have always been vulnerable to violence and harassment by extremist organizations and by groups and individuals whose actions are adversely commented upon by the press. Aggressive reactions also occur when the press does not publish a certain news report or does not give the prominence to some item which the extremists think the item deserves.

Symptomatic of disturbance rise of intolerance in Pakistani society particularly with regard to sectarian and ethnic considerations that sharpened during the 1980s, this dimension of danger is faced by press is the price that media have paid for the protected periods of dictatorship imposed upon the people for over two decades during which division were deliberately fostered in order to weaken the political process. On occasion even the government controlled electronic media have been subjected to threats when programs featuring women, music and entertainment have sought to be realistic and contemporary rather than remain in suffocating mold of sterility preferred by the forces of obscurantism. As literacy and education increase and as level of access to international media improve, as in the case of overseas radio and satellite TV channels, there is a sense of hope that non official intimidation of the media by groups that largely remained unpunished for their attacks will diminish in the years ahead.

Existing Regime and Media Laws:


Government plans to introduce new media laws

Updated: Thursday July 1, 2010 10:30:03 PM

ISLAMABAD: Authorities are proposing a law to restrict graphic coverage of militant attacks, and possibly curb harsh criticism of the government, by increasingly independent television channels, ARY NEWS reported.

If approved by the National Assembly, the bill, known as the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority Bill, would ban live coverage of the militant attacks, as well as broadcast of “anything defamatory against the organs of the state”.

It would also prevent discussions which could “influence” the judiciary at a time when it has been dealing with several political cases involving President Asif Ali Zardari.

The new bill prohibits media from broadcasting video footage of suicide bombers, bodies of victims of terror attacks, statements from Islamist militants and any acts “which promote, aid or abet terrorist or terrorism”.

An offender could be sentenced to up to three years in jail or fined up to 10 million rupees ($117,100).

Critics, however, say the government could use the proposed law to tame media outlets. The government has not yet set a date for voting on the bill.

The bill seeks to amend a law introduced by former military President Pervez Musharraf in an attempt to muzzle the media after he imposed emergency rule in November 2007.

Under the original law, media were prohibited from broadcasting or publishing statements ridiculing Musharraf, top government officials and the military.

However, the present government led by Zardari, who replaced Musharraf in 2008, has proposed an amendment to strike down what it calls “draconian laws” by the former military ruler.

“The draconian laws that threatened coercive actions against the press will be removed via this bill to begin the process of providing for a free press in Pakistan,” said a draft of the bill obtained by media organs.

U.S. ally Pakistan is confronting a growing threat from Islamist militants. The militants have unleashed a wave of attacks across the country, killing hundreds of people, in retaliation for military offensives in their northwest bastions.

Officials accuse some media outlets critical of the president of running a vilification campaign against the government, but promised they would not curb free speech.

“Nowhere in the civilized world are murderers, terrorists and extremists given air time on electronic media to expound their views,” Farah Ispahani, a ruling party parliamentarian on the standing committee on information and broadcasting, told Reuters.

“This report, which will take on the shape of a bill in the next session of parliament, is not an attempt to control the media. It is a necessary code of conduct that is usually practised all over the world willingly by the electronic media.”

Rights activists, however, doubt the government’s intentions.

“This bill is a self-defeating exercise. They are harming their own image and it exposes their dictatorial temperament,” said Iqbal Haider, a former law minister and co-chairman of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan.

“To call a spade a spade or a crook a crook is no offence.”

The Supreme Court in December struck down a controversial law that provided amnesty to Zardari, several aides and thousands of political activities from corruption and other charges.

Many of Pakistan’s broadcast outlets are full of the latest twists and turns of the cases surrounding Zardari, with many anchors and talk show hosts criticizing the president.

Current Situation:

Today Pakistani media is comparatively free as it was in past. There are few regulatory measures, formulated by Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA). These measures are not to regulate how to present? Or media have what to present? They are there just to decide that the bridle of media should be handed over to whom?

The freedom of Pakistani media is not gifted by the government, or it is not due to leniency of the regime. It has been snitched from harsh clutch of dictators by force. The factors that are involved in achieving the liberty include;

Public Support

Efforts by the part of Journalists

Globalization’s impact

Public Support:

The first and most active factor that worked for achieving media freedom is public support. Pakistani people are seeking for a free, fearless and vibrant media. They refused to accept ‘Disinformation” or “Dysinformation”. They have become mature and shrewd enough can easily detect any kind of sly in represented facts. So in order to win their trust all type of media are working hard to become ‘a credible source’ for them.

Efforts of Journalists:

Journalists are fighting for media freedom from so many decades. They did not compromise with their freedom of expression. Whenever it was curbed the journalists fight back, when a regime muted the voice, they find alternatives to send the information to their audience. So their struggles to achieve freedom must be admitted and admired.


With the impact of globalization media got independent in all over the world. The media boom is due to emergence of communication technologies and advancement in satellite communications. This technological expansion is one of the significant effects of globalization.

All of the above factors worked together to achieve present day media freedom in Pakistan. So we may say that if the impacts of globalization may eliminated probably over media have to face problems as they faced in past due to implementation of black laws.

Mass Media Laws in Pakistan:

Before having a detailed discussion it is necessary to know that what existing laws for mass media are, so we will see these laws at glance,


Constitutional Provision

Article 19 of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan “Every

citizen shall have the right to freedom of speech and expression, and there

shall be freedom of the press, subject to any reasonable restriction imposed

by law in the interest of the glory of Islam or the integrity, security or

defence of Pakistan or any part thereof, friendly relations with foreign

states, public order, decency or morality or in relation to contempt of court

or commission or incitement to an offence”.


Provisions of Rules of Business, 1973

In order to ensure freedom of Press and promotion of responsible Print and

Electronic Media in the country as envisaged in the Constitution of Islamic

Republic of Pakistan, the Federal Government entrusted a number of task to the

Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, as provided in the Rules of Business

1973. These are: –

i) Policy relating to internal publicity on national matters;

ii) Broadcasting including television;

iii) Production of films on behalf of the Government, its agencies,

Government controlled Corporations, etc.;

iv) Press relations, including delegations of journalists and other

information media;

v) Provision of facilities for the development of newspaper industry;

vi) Policy regarding government advertisement; control of

advertisement and placement;

vii) Audit of circulation of newspapers;

viii) Liaison and coordination with agencies and media on matters

concerning Government policies and activities;

ix) External Publicity;

x) Training facilities for Radio and Television personnel.


Media Laws

a). Press, Newspaper, News Agencies, and Book Registration


b). Press Council of Pakistan Ordinance -2002.

c). Freedom of Information Act – 2002.

d). Defamation Ordinance – 2002.

e). Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA)

Ordinance – 2002.

f) Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA)

Rules – 2002

g). Condition of (working journalists) Services Act, 1973;

We will discuss some significant laws for print and electronic media, briefly. But before that it is necessary to discuss why they are required?

Requirement of media laws:

As far as the question that ‘is it necessary to call for media laws?’ is concerned we can easily say that ‘laws’ absolutely necessary for the proper functioning of any organization as they help to maintain check and balance. Following arguments prove the significance of media laws:

1) Media sometimes crosses the limits and does more than enough, in order to stop this there should be a check/law.

2) We often hear much about fundamental human rights on media, but by exhibiting violation of these rights media itself violates human rights. That thing also needs to be suppressed.

3) Personal and communal privacy is highly affected by media. No secret remains secret because of media globalization. Some things happen to worth keeping private so to protect privacy law is essential.

4) The owner of the product is responsible that in case the product is provided to be used by somebody else, that this user is in compliance with the above rules and regulations and agrees to not mention, comment, state or otherwise discuss anything about the respective product.

A corresponding law may need to govern import restrictions so that ANYTHING, product or service or even visitors to the respective country need to sign when entering the respective country to obey to this law.

Print Media Laws:


Censorship is considered very important in perspective of media. It holds same significance for media as a bridle for a horse. It keeps media in limits. A governmental organization censors anything that is considered morally corrupt. But as an old latin phrase states “WHO WILL GUARD THE GUARDS”, here comes a point that who will suggest that something is ‘morally’ crooked?

Code of ethics is one thing which will help here. All laws of censorship are meaningless without the code of ethics.

Government of Pakistan has tried very hard to implement laws of censorship. But this is crystal clear that Pakistani censor board has awfully failed to do so. The reason definitely is the stark absence of code of ethics.


“Our freedom depends in large part, on the continuation of a free press, which is the strongest guarantee of a free society.”  

– Richard M. Schmidt- 

Constitutional Provisions & Guarantees

An article in constitution Pakistan provides freedom of speech and fundamental rights, this piece of writing refers especially to press and is given below:

Article 19, Freedom of Speech:

Every citizen shall have the right to freedom of speech and expression, and there shall be freedom of the press, subject to any reasonable restrictions imposed by law in the interest of the glory of Islam or the integrity, security or defense of Pakistan or any part thereof, friendly relations with foreign states, public order, decency or morality, or in relation to contempt of court, commission of or incitement to an offense.

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The advent of new communication technologies, increasing computerization, the ease with which material can be reproduced in large volumes at fairly low cost, the spread of video piracy in particular and related development makes the subject of copyright most pertinent to a developing country like Pakistan. That is why the government of Pakistan supports the international agreements on copyright and this preference for acceptance of an international disciplinary approach is reflective in the updating of and the amendments made to, the Copyright Ordinance, 1962 through the changes brought about in 1992.

Laws for Broadcast Media:

Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority:

PEMRA is a regulatory body; it was established on 1st March 2002 by the government.

This is responsible for serving and regulating the establishment of all private electronic media. Its mandate is to improve the standers of information and entertainment through media and enlarge the options available to public in media. It is also established to make the people’s access easy to mass media at local and community level. The most significant mandate is have checks on media organizations through accountability and good governance.

Since PEMRA’s beginning in the country, electronic media of Pakistan remained in regime’s control till the Pakistan’s first private sector TV channel was launched in 1990s. It was the mid of 90s when people started using satellite dishes for fulfilling their entertainment needs. It was the time when government realized people necessitate and adopted more liberal media policies and provided the public easy access multiple TV channels by encouraging public private participation. For the accountability purposes there was a need to have an effective regulatory frame work. By keeping in view all of the above purposes and the larger interest of the state Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority were established.

Factors behind the formulation:

As for as concerned, why these laws have been formulated? There are four factors behind identified by Javed Jabbar in his book Mass Media Laws and Regulations in Pakistan, according to him four factors that determined the nature and the application of laws and regulations to mass media in Pakistan from the date of its independence it would be appropriate to list the legislative material carried over from the second half of 19th century and the first forty six and a half years of twentieth century under British rule as the first of these factors.

The second factor was the authoritarian mind-set which shaped the exercise of executive power. In the absence of a directly elected Parliament and with the Constituent Assembly perennially unable to frame a constitution that could satisfy both East Pakistan and the disparate groups in West Pakistan, palace intrigues thrived, myopic self centered interests becoming sharp thorns which pricked and began to hurt the press of the country. Shaped by ownership and control of vast tracts of land and other wealth, accustomed to conventional subservience of the serfs, seeing the upsurge of the pre 1947 freedom movement on mass level as a passing aberration which had to be tolerated and used for its own purposes, the feudal mind-set looked upon the media, particularly and independent press, as a constant irritant and an unacceptable challenge to the supremacy of the ruling class, a status enjoyed by this for several eras under British tutelage.

The third determinant factor was the acute sense of uncertainty about the future stability of a country whose survival for not more than a couple of years had been forecast by prominent Indian leaders. Combined with the conflict over Kashmir and the first of the wars with India which occurred in 1948, the new nation faced a geo-political situation rife with security threats. In such conditions, criticism of government actions by Press can easily be seen as giving comfort to the enemy. Without a well-established tradition of engaging in candid exchange and the acceptance of dissenting viewpoints, the atmosphere facilitated a gradual increase in the influence if the military, initially behind the scenes, as a part of the lens with which the state perceived the media.

Making up this quartet, was the fourth factor which shaped, policy, laws and actions with regard to the press in the early years of Pakistan. This was the continuing volatility in the political arena. An organization that was more of an emotional mass movement inspired by the idea of an independent homeland for the Muslims, the Muslim League as a political party entrusted with the tasks of leading a vast and uniquely constructed new country into stable statehood proved unable to rise the occasion. Deprived of the towering leadership of Quid-e-Azam in less than a year of independence, the party was unable to quell factionalism and unwilling to transcend provincial and parochial divisions to offer a large and unifying vision. Despite the sincerity and service of some veterans of the freedom movement the political process very quickly began to reveal internal strife, incompetence and corruption. While government controlled radio and censor controlled cinema could not offer a mirror to the reality of these times, the press was seen as an element that was aggravating the problems already being faced, instead of helping to resolve the complexity of the situation.

Introducing New Directions:

In terms of fundamental and a direction setting change in mass media laws and norms, perhaps the 104 day tenure of the caretaker government appointed by Presendent Farooq Leghari on 5th November 1996 and headed by Prime Minister Malik Meraj Khalid becomes the most significant phase in the history of Pakistan. The only similar period of significance would be the time in September 1988 when the black law of 1963 was repealed and a new phase of press freedom was ensured. During the most recent experience of a caretaker administration, basic changes were put into place in the laws and conventions, ranging from alterations in nomenclature to ending, once and for all, the 50 year monopoly of the state and government over electronic media.

One of the first decisions taken by the government in November 1996 was to change the name of Ministry of Information and Broadcasting to the Ministry of Information and Media Development. This amendment has more importance than merely the replacement of one word with other words. The term: “broadcasting” had come to acquire the propagandistic and one sided dimension by which governments imposed a one way dissemination of messages upon the people because the term: “broadcasting” in it self reflects a one way function rather than a two way process of dialogue and communication.

Secondly with the new developments of media technology which include media that reach specific and small audiences, the concept of narrow casting has become as important as the concept of broadcasting.

Thirdly and possibly most importantly, Pakistan is one of lowest levels of access to mass media by the people. For example, countries in Sub-Saharan Africa have more Radio sets per 1000people as in Pakistan. The task of increasing levels of access to mass media and in turn facilitating mass media to increase their coverage of the population should become the most vital priorities for the ministry, rather than the outmoded functions of serving as an instrument for production of propaganda.

The caretaker government also introduced the refres


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