Earlier this month, Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) uploaded a draft proposal on its website on regulating web and over the top television (OTT) content services.

After going through the 25-page draft proposalThe Current is of the view that this is yet another effort by the government to silence independent voices. First of all, PEMRA has no authority and/or mandate to regulate social media. Secondly, Pakistan’s mainstream media is going through its worst period of censorship –- that too under a “democratic” dispensation. Pakistan is ranked 142 out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2019 World Press Freedom Index, i.e. three places lower than it was in 2018.

Many Pakistani journalists have taken to social media to share their uncensored views online due to media censorship. Now, the government wants to regulate the internet by charging a hefty amount in fees for web TVs (both news and non-news) and OTTs and also issue licenses. They are also proposing a code of conduct without giving out any details. Reporters Without Borders rightly said that this draft proposal by PEMRA “betrays an intent to censor online video content relentlessly”. If this draft is not to discourage online content creators then what is? We, at The Current, firmly believe in freedom of expression and thus any moves to curtail our freedoms, our fundamental rights and our right to dissent, are unacceptable. Period.


It is quite disappointing to see that a government that fully utilised social media and mainstream media before coming to power is now trying to shut down critics’ voices. Prime Minister (PM) Imran Khan recently said that he has stopped reading newspapers and watching evening news/current affairs shows because the media hammers him all the time is surprising, given that PM Imran has been media’s darling from the first day. His government is being criticised for its lack of performance and delivery. We believe the premier should not demonise media that helped him during his struggling days in politics and made him relevant.

It is also quite alarming to see that peaceful protesters in Islamabad were arrested and charges of sedition were levelled against them. Their only crime was to be a part of a protest seeking the release of Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM) Manzoor Pashteen. Some were released, but 23 political activists and human rights defenders, including Ammar Rashid and Nawfal Saleemi, are still under arrest — not to mention citizens like Khurram Qureshi who was there for solidarity. Their families are not being allowed to meet them despite the fact that it is their legal right. We would like to ask the government how it is sedition to protest peacefully when it is our fundamental right to do so. Releasing these protestors would be the right thing to do.

From censorship in media to curbing online dissent to booking peaceful protesters under sedition charges, the state of Pakistan is acting more like a police state and less as a democracy. Let’s not go down this path.