PEMRA should not confuse satire with defamation

Feb 1st, 2012 | By | Category: PEMRA, Satire

PEMRAChasing the coat tails of public outcry over Maya Khan’s infamous show, PEMRA has finally taken notice of undesirable media practices. According to a report in The News (Jang Group), PEMRA has stated that it intends to curb not only programmes that invade personal privacy, but satire also.

The authority also reiterated its resolve to curb the derogatory and defamatory satirical programmes aired by many channels in the guise of parody that are inadvertently being used for demeaning and defaming dignitaries.

Defamation is defined under Article 3 of the Defamation Ordinance 2002 requires that “a false statement or representation”. The reason for defamation laws, which are common throughout the world, is to prevent the spread of malicious and vindictive lies to damage someone’s reputation.

Satire is something very different. Satire is the use of irony, sarcasm, and humour to highlight folly with the intention of making an editorial point. It is an ancient art form practiced all over the world, often to point out the mistakes and misbehaviour of elite and powerful figures in society. Satire is inherently promoting a particular opinion or perspective, and is usually considered a specially protected form of free speech.

Examples of satire include many of Nadeem Paracha’s columns for Dawn, Beygairat Brigade song ‘Aalu Anday’

and Aaj TV‘s 4 Man Show

These programmes are not presenting false representations to defame or demean anyone. They are merely using humour to highlight the eccentricities and particularities of prominent issues and persons in society. Just because someone is a dignitary or has achieved a high reputation, it does not mean that they are flawless. Actually, many argue that the more influence a person or institution has, the more important it is to scrutinise them so that they live up to the expectations that society places on them.

PEMRA does not need to curb satirical programmes, which are part and parcel of a healthy debate and discussion in society. Rather, the regulatory agency needs to curb the false and defamatory information that is all too common in news reports. Rather than crack down on satire, PEMRA should issue guidelines about biased reporting and publishing opinions and viewpoints outside the clearly labeled spaces for such views so that readers and viewers clearly know when they are being presented with facts and when they are being presented with someone’s personal opinion.

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