LAHORE: Two ‘pious’ Pakistanis, a former Ameer of the Jamaat-i-Islami Qazi Hussain Ahmed, and Supreme Court Justice (retd) Wajihuddin Ahmed, have submitted petitions to the Supreme Court demanding action within a week against ‘obscene’ and ‘vulgar’ programmes and advertisements on private TV channels.
What is obscene and vulgar in the view of one community is different from that of another. According to the Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English, vulgarity is the state or quality of being vulgar i.e., 1) remarks, jokes, etc that are vulgar and deal with sex in a very rude and offensive way, 2) impolite and showing bad manners, 3) not showing good judgment about what is beautiful or suitable, e.g., a vulgar display of wealth. Obscene, on the other hand, is defined as 1) dealing with sex in a socially unacceptable and offensive way, 2) extremely immoral and unfair in a way that makes you angry. The important question is, will the banning of vulgar and obscene content on television eradicate all the evils currently existing in Pakistani society? What about the basic right of a citizen to personal liberty and privacy? Why should the citizens watch only what the government prescribes, in an era of global information and free media?
It is a fact that Pakistanis are among the top viewers of pornography on the internet. After restricting TV channels, will the government ban the internet, too? Did the ban of liquor in the country eliminate its use? Its ban has only deprived the government of billions of rupees in terms of revenue. Why don’t our guardians of morality understand that the more restrictions you impose on human freedom, the more curiosity it creates among humans regarding the activities that they have been prohibited from indulging in?
What about the violence, intolerance, xenophobia and hate in society against women, minorities and among the different sects? Those who do not wish to watch what they deem to be vulgar or obscene should refrain from watching TV. Today, when information has changed the lives of people, any ban on TV channels would be futile just like the ban on drinking has proven to be.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 15th, 2012.
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