The Supreme Court will now decide TV channel content too?

Published: August 10, 2012
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TV channels are free to get as obnoxious and obscene with the politicians in name of popularity and good humour, but the judiciary stays untouchable. DESIGN: ERUM SHAIKH

As if we have not had enough of moral policing from our mumanis and chachis, teachers and professors, co-workers and bosses, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Pakistan Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry decided to take action on behalf of a letter written by former head honcho of Jamaat-e-Islami Qazi Hussain Ahmed and Justice (retd) Wajihuddin.

This action is against obscenity aired on TV channels. Justice Chaudhry believes that TV channels are spreading vulgarity and called PEMRA officials to the court to admonish them.

According to the news reports, the Chief Justice cited some offensive programmes and advertisements and said that one finds it difficult to watch them with family. However, I am saddened by the fact that he does not cite offensive programmes that one cannot watch even when one is by himself; leave alone with the family and inquisitive children because they test the limit of sanity.

Where was the suo moto when the engineer Agha Waqar was going on about his water kit and federal minister Khursheed Shah was raving about it?

Why was it all not shut down?

If you ask me, our national pride was in tatters when that travesty was being passed around as a scientific breakthrough. I was so embarrassed to watch it that I literally hid my face. My nephew asked me if laws of thermodynamics can really be altered and I was even more ashamed to be a taxpaying citizen of a country where a 12-year-old was subjected to witness this litany and had to make sure that it was not true.

I hope one of the obscene programmes that the CJ took notice of is Maya Khan’s Ramazan show where she addresses everyone – men, women, children, adults, and little green Martians – with terms like mera bachapyaroo, golo polo and what not. Her conversation is peppered with many ‘Haaye Allahs’ and fake tears. Watching her calling a man like Nooruddin bhai ‘pyaaro’ tested every fibre of intelligence, rationality and prudence in my body. He is an activist in his 50s who suffers from muscular dystrophy and has been working for the rights of people with disabilities, for goodness’ sake! But that is not considered vulgar because her conversation is interspersed with multiple references to Allah and Rasool and she wears a dupatta on her head!

While the CJ had PEMRA’s chairman in his court for this matter of obscenity, the CJ thought that he should also ask the PEMRA chairman about the programming on private TV channels. This was in regard to channels which air programs about higher judiciary and the CJ ordered him to bring on all press conferences and programmes against the judiciary before the next hearing. However, he had no issues with programmes that mocked the politicians of the country or those that call them all sorts of names because they are ‘popular’ and ‘in good humour’. This basically meant that TV channels are free to get as obnoxious and obscene with the politicians in name of popularity and good humour, but the judiciary stays untouchable.

He rounded up his sermon observations by calling on to TV channels to leave religion out of it. Looks like moral policing in this country has found a new judge, and champion against the heretics who enjoy the very, very obscene display of something like a Bilal Khan video or women’s tennis.

If my Twitter feed is to be believed, Justice Chaudhry told the PEMRA chairman that August personalities like Aurya Maqbool (a babu) and Ansar Abbasi (journalist and former Jamat-e-Islami worker) will point out the incidents of fahashi (obscenity) and PEMRA will shut them down.

So basically, if the CJ has his way – and he usually does have his way – people who have no business butting in broadcasting and have no experience in national broadcasting policies formulation will decide the content that will be allowed to go on air.

At times, I wonder if I live in a country that is a replica of Ayn Rand’s Fountainhead and Mufti-e-Azam Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry is the Ellsworth Toohey of our times. Our tragedy is that we don’t have anyone to challenge the Ellsworth Tooheys of Pakistan.

This post originally appeared here. 

Read more by Tazeen here or follow her on Twitter @tazeen

Tazeen Javed

Tazeen Javed

She has worked as a journalist, teacher, salesperson, activist, tour guide, election observer, fruit vendor, copy writer and television producer in the past. Tazeen blogs at tazeen.net/

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Waqar

    Its Pakistan where People criticize Cheif justice openly on blogs and Tv shows.

    Why we do not debate cases under courts in court? Your logics have good weight, but those are useless outside the court when case is in court.Recommend

  • liberal extremist

    Author seems to be very much biased. She simply wants media to go wild which should not be the case in Pakistan. Stopping vulgarity is a good thing but who is gonna check it is the thing should be focused,as writer said. But this thing should not hamper CJ’s noble effortsRecommend

  • https://twitter.com/pugnate Noman Ansari

    So basically, if the CJ has his way –
    and he usually does have his way –
    people who have no business butting in
    broadcasting and have no experience in
    national broadcasting policies
    formulation will decide the content
    that will be allowed to go on air.

    There is a right way to go about this. Let’s hope he does without become some egotistical freak. There should be a democratic regulating body that is empowered, and has a practical understanding of how it all works. Recommend

  • Ibrahim

    It appears that the author has little understanding of law. Her comparison to water kit issue and to programmes in which politicians are mocked is irrelevant and quite fallacious. What is at issue here are the obscenity laws, and the word obscenity has nothing to do with people like Agha waqar making false claims. That is a whole different topic. Furthermore, most of the western countries have obscenity laws, including US and UK. Yes, their courts also police the moral content of tv shows, and determine what amount of salaciousness is permissible on tv, albeit with different standards of permissibility. Recommend

  • Jaleed Ahmed Gilani

    I support the CJ’s efforts simply on the grounds that there has to be some form of check on the
    beast which is the media. Agreed that Maya Khan is wrong in many aspects, but what does not taking a suo moto notice on Engineer Waqar have to do with the present case?

    All form of objectionable content which is socially unacceptable should be banned from television. Any voluptuous person can find other sources to fulfil his cravings.Recommend

  • salman

    @liberal extremist: Did you really read the whole piece? She is talking about how the media should not put up so much crap that is allowed under the pretense of religion. I find such programs obscene. Will the supreme court please take note?Recommend

  • Fake Liberal

    The author is biased, she seems to be one of those liberals whose job is to destroy free judiciary, support crooks, always have double standards, thirsty for Dollars and a condo in ManhattanRecommend

  • haroon ali

    I do not agree with you. If anything illegal is happening and that too very openly, then CJ has no option but to take a suo motto. It’s not about morality but about rule of law. If Pemra has laid down rules but does not enforce them then it is the duty of the judiciary to interfere.Recommend

  • Syed Rzvi

    I can understand how an ordinary Pakistani is feeling under the current judicial set up as instead of taking the real issues which are the litigation of a common man of this land. our CJ is taking up those matters which allows him to get maximum number of airtime.

    it will be most unfortunate if the name you have mentioned are entrusted with the tasking of filtering the programmes and its content as they are the one who do not believe in free and fair democracy and always looking for ways which can help them to come to the front benches through the back door.Recommend

  • I’d rather not be public

    I don’t get why people are talking bad about the author. She is right when she talks about the Maya Khan show and the countless shows on the waterkit. No where in the article does she say that she doesn’t want any of the vulgar shows to not be aired, but all she is pondering upon in the article is what defines vulgarity and whether the aforementioned shows be banned as well. There are tv shows which make fun of our President(no matter how much you hate him, he is still a democratically elected President), are they going to be monitored as well? I’m not against this but still, tv channels don’t only broadcast vulgar shows, they also broadcast demeaning and just plain wrong shows. Recommend

  • halblooded

    What is wrong if CJ has took notice of vulgur content? Is criticism your habit or you actually found something in there? Just asking.Recommend

  • Shadytr33

    If you are so much disgusted with the programs regarding the water kit and Maya Khan Then instead of writing a blog about it (which is much easier as sitting in front of the computer in your dining room thinking you have made a difference), you should have written a complaint and submitted to to the courts.
    Well it’s good that at least the court is stepping in with regulating the broadcasts because PEMRA seems useless these days.
    Also it’s right that religion should be kept out of media rooms whether it be Islam, Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism etc. As it was said by an Australian Govt official regarding the taking down of an offensive page on facebook, “We are not governed by US laws” We have Pakistani laws here Recommend

  • Khurram

    Really a good step from Mr. Chief Justice for the sake of country.

    We ‘re already the witness of the involvement of media in the conspiracies specially for last few months, and now they should essentially be accountable for their actions for the sake of country.

    Well done!!! Chief Justice.Recommend

  • Talha

    why ET always try to be a bitch and always condemn good things! if there anything bad in taking action against vulgarity? Recommend

  • GP:-)

    CJ has gone beserk. He needs to be told off. He thinks that he has turned into a sacrosanct personality and has a devine right to rule.Recommend

  • shahzad

    This is nothing but an attempt to hide the crimes of Arsalan Ifthikhar. These judges are no better than Zardari. Recommend

  • Parvez

    If this is a political move by the PTI to woo the JI, its a bad move. Justice (retd) Wajihuddin has just tumbled in ratings in my book.
    This write up was needed and nicely done.Recommend

  • Deendayal M.Lulla

    How the judiciary will control content of foreign television channels which are aired in pakistan? Why this non-transparency in the functioning of the judiciary?
    We can have cartoons on politicians,we can defame them – nothing happens. But if you talk about judiciary,then you are inviting trouble. Is judiciary the holy cow,whichcannot be touched? The time wasted in this case should be better utilised in solving backlog of cases. Remember,the great philosopher Chanakya has said,”we should also doubt the integrity of a judge” I would like to know if a litigant tells this to a judge,what will be the response of a judge. The judiciary should also welcome live telecast of courts’ proceedings. In Canada,a citizen can ask for a DVD of a any case,even if he/she is not a party to the case,without mentioning the reason why the DVD is required. Can this happen in this country? Recommend

  • elementary

    Vulgarity is such a vague and subjective term.To be able to stop something spreading you need to be able to define it. Can somebody do it?
    Having restrictions in the name of vulgarity on media and any creative art is just counterproductive.Recommend

  • S. Anwar Ali Shah, Advocate High Court

    When Chowkidar would n’t play his role of watch dog who will watch guard the interest of this unfortunate nation. Lets’ illuminate last hope to brighten the future of our children.Recommend

  • http://lonepkliberal.wordpress.com Loneliberal PK

    CJ has long discarded his wig and gable, and has reinvented himself as a politician. He cares more about PR than he does about justice. Why else should the chief justice waste his time on moral policing, when this country is fraught with real injustices?Recommend

  • Moz

    Now I like watching vulgar shows. Who the hell is this CJ to stop me? He shud look at his own son first.Recommend

  • Asad Lakhani

    . Long Live Musharaff!!! long live freedom!!! we want freedom from islamic sharia militancy Recommend

  • elementary

    Why are our people convinced that rise and fall of any nation is directly related to the length and size of dress their womanfolk wear.Recommend

  • Ammad Malik

    This is the country where Qadri has over 100k fans on FB! What are you talking about?!Recommend

  • Usama

    To all those who are talking against this action. Vulgarity is no lesser evil then crime and terrorism thing you are talking about.
    There are no bounds to freedom, laws are made to control it. You are not free to do anything you like.Recommend

  • DK

    Now this CJ will tell us how to live our life too might as well tell me what i am allowed to eat and what i am not allowed to eat how many hours we are allowed to sleep this is absolute nonsense insteading of focusing on larger issues these judges are giving judgments on Samosas I am not a PPP supporter but i do want answers to the questions Faisal Raza Abidi raised abt CJRecommend

  • Hamid Hassan Khan

    Dear Sir,

    we are pakistani and we trust on neutral courts but present sc and media is politicized so my request to all my pakistanis that, before believing on any decision and news of sc think thousand time. thanks

    best regards

    hamid hassan khan

    0322-4996914Recommend

  • Akhter

    I do not need the CJ or more aptly his royal,divine highness to tell me what i should watch and what i should not! Furthermore any crime i may or may not be committing is between me and my god.
    As Individuals we have the right to decide between right and wrong,furthermore as Muslims we are responsible for our own and our children s actions, So Mr Chief sahib your holiness your divine ness ( or so you believe) oh i almost forgot (almost committed shirk) your highness when your son Mr ifthikhar was gambling in a Monte Carlo casino or living the high life in London did you not think of asking him how he was able to afford such an expensive lifestyle?
    Now i know i will upset all the CJ lovers but i believe apart from the act of God or Actions of Muhammad ( SAW)
    i can and should question the actions of all mortals. (unless of course Mr CJ has now elevated himself above us mere mortals) In which case i will now be summarily shot!Recommend