Officials of the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) were earlier this month reportedly detained by an anchor, who had stormed the media watchdog’s Lahore office with the help of three of his police guards and two other unidentified persons.
According to The News, a top PEMRA official on February 13 found the anchor calling him on WhatsApp after barging into the office, shouting and directing his companions to seal the premises and barring anyone from entering or exiting the building.
Three police guards deputed for his security helped him lay siege at the office, while two persons in plain clothes also accompanied the journalist who had arrived on a Toyota Corolla bearing a green number plate, the report said.
He further shouted asking for CCTV cameras and instructed his men to confiscate them, it added.
As the siege continued, PEMRA Lahore’s regional general manager came out of his room and request the anchor to discuss with him his grievances, the anchor followed the official to his room and ordered his police guards to lock it from inside while staying alert with the weapons.
Finally, the manager was also made hostage along with his two guests. It was from there, the anchor called up a top PEMRA official in Islamabad and put it on speakerphone.
“Do you want to continue your job or not?” the anchor asked the top official. “Yes, I want to continue,” was the reply. Second question, “If I ask you to delegate me all of your powers, would you do that or not?” “I will do that,” the official responded.
The third question by the anchor was if he put the official’s phone on hold for an hour, would he wait or disconnect the call? “I will wait.”
This followed requests from the top official who wanted the anchor to forgive PEMRA. He also told the journalist that the action taken against him was a mistake, the report claimed and added that the media watchdog official further promised that he would visit Lahore to personally apologise to the anchor.
The conversation ended after this reassurance and Lahore PEMRA regional general manager was a silent spectator.
According to the report, PEMRA’s Council of Complaints had fined the anchor Rs500,000 while taking action on the complaint of two provincial ministers. The anchor had alleged them of corrupt practices in his TV programme but failed to prove the same. PEMRA chairman had approved the decision and it was delivered to the anchor on the day he attacked the office in retaliation instead of opting for a legal remedy.
As the matter was “resolved” after assurance of the top PEMRA official, the anchor decided to celebrate it at PEMRA’s Lahore office where he remained from 3 pm to 6 pm. He ordered the accompanying men in plain clothes to go get 10 pizzas.
While the anchor apologised to his hostages for any “inconvenience”, he let the staff know about the powers he enjoyed, the report said.
Taking names of high-ups in the judiciary and security agencies, he “tried to give an impression that he was very influential and also got the support of all the named institutions”, Regional General Manager Ikram Barkat noted in a written report sent to the PEMRA chairman.
“He also told us that he has powers given by the Supreme Court (SC) to seal any premises and has the seals available in his vehicles to do so. For reference, he quoted an incident where he sealed a hospital for three days.”
While the report sent to the PEMRA chief is being treated as a ‘top-secret’ and the name of the journalist has not been disclosed, sources in the media regulatory authority have informed The Current that the anchor is affiliated with BOL Network.
Repeated attempts were made to contact the journalist, but he was unavailable.