Pemra’s latest assault

LAST month, the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority invited comments on a draft resolution on Web TV and OTT (over the top TV). A cursory or detailed look lead to the same conclusion: rather than supposedly providing a level-playing field to mainstream TV and Web TV, this is part of the continued onslaught on the fundamental rights of freedom of speech, press freedom, and the right to information as guaranteed by Article 19 and 19-A of the Pakistani Constitution.

After the failure of the government to go ahead with legislation regarding the PMRA (a single authority to regulate all types of media), the proposal seeks to bypass the legislative process required in parliament by introducing a regulation — something that is also doomed to fail given the difficult, illegal and impractical proposition of bringing internet content under the purview of the TV regulator.

The proposed regulation also speaks of Pemra coordinating with the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority to immediately block content that violates licensing terms, effectively trying to delegitimise existing online content producers. As eager as the state seems to be to censor online content, it keeps missing the point. Ever-evolving advanced technology renders blocks on the internet ineffective because there are several easy ways to circumvent online censorship.

The only type of regulation that makes sense for internet-based content is self-regulation.