Explainer: Why is the govt's planned media authority so controversial?

The Express Tribune breaks down what exactly the proposed regulatory body will do


Social Desk June 04, 2021

With the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government tabling a bill to form the Pakistan Media Development Authority (PMDA), opposition parties and media persons alike have heavily criticised the move.

The Express Tribune breaks down what exactly the proposed regulatory body will do.

What is it?

The PMDA will serve as a regulatory body to “cater to the professional and business requirements of all forms of media and their users”.

This means that PMDA will be responsible for regulatiing print, broadcast and digital media.

“This will be a new statutory institution established to regulate films, electronic, print and digital media in Pakistan in the age of meta data, digital and social media, and internet-based content and advertisements,” the proposal reads.

While previous laws for media regulation, control or indirect control will be abolished with fresh legislation enacted to give legal cover to the PMDA and its functions.

What does this mean for Pakistan's media industry?

It has been proposed that the PMDA be authoritised to not only register digital media platforms but also monitor and analyse them.

It will also ensure the enforcement of cyber laws meaning that a licence will have to be obtained from the PMDA to set up a digital media platform.

It is also likely that digital media will see harsher regulation and control by the government.

Right now social media regulatory functions are only limited to the “criminal acts of cybercrime” and digital media regulation to the blocking of sites, the document goes on to say.

"The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority has no control over the content of media reporting projected via cell phones," the document further reads.

The PMDA would also be able to take media entities who violate any regulation to task.

The regulations in place would also be framed by the PDMA itself which will translate into heightened restrictions on the content posted on digital media.

The body would set guidelines to media for code of conduct and national security issues as well as establishing a wing within the PMDA for forensic cyber audit.

The body will also monitor revenue generated through online advertisements with undocumented and unregulated online advertisements meaning there are chances of revenue leaks and tax evasion.

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