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Government further tightens law for electronic media

(PPF/IFEX) - On June 4, 2007, President Pervez Musharraf promulgated the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Amendment) Ordinance (2007), which gives sweeping powers to the state regulator to take punitive action against the country's private electronic media.

The ordinance empowers the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) to seize broadcasters' equipment, seal their premises and suspend their licences. PEMRA can now take unilateral action against broadcasters that it believes have violated the rules or regulations. Previously, such actions could only be taken after consultation with the Council of Complaints.

The ordinance also increased the fines for violations tenfold, from Rs one million (approx. US$16,666) to Rs. ten million (approx. US$166,660). The changes in the law have been introduced through an ordinance, which would lapse in 90 days unless ratified by the parliament.

The amendments have been widely condemned by journalists' organisations, political parties and human rights groups in Pakistan. Journalists in Islamabad and other parts of the country have demonstrated against the ordinance. The Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) condemned the ordinance as a denial of media freedom and other fundamental rights.

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