Levy Of PTV Fee And Promotion Of Porn Stars: A Public Interest Issue

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Levy Of PTV Fee And Promotion Of Porn Stars: A Public Interest Issue

On 15 April 2016 the Honourable Lahore High Court issued notices to PEMRA, Information Ministry, Pakistan Television (PTV) and Attorney General of Pakistan to seek their reply. There was an interesting proposition in a Constitutional Writ petition challenging the levy of PTV fee every month charged through the electricity bills by the Information Ministry. Another issue arising out of the petition was to seek directions against PEMRA and Information Ministry to curb the nefarious activities of cable operators showing pornographic films and promotion of black magic propaganda through their private channels.

Appearing on behalf of the opposition leader and chairman Public Accounts Committee of Punjab Assembly, Mr Mian Mehmood Ur Rashid, I argued that there is a difference between a tax and levy of fee. According to PLD 2016 Lahore 35, tax is imposed for a public purpose but fee is imposed in lieu of services. When a citizen is neither consuming the services of PTV nor receiving its signals then there should be no grounds available for imposition of fees through electricity bills. When a citizen is already paying his bill to a cable operator at the end of every month then PTV fee cannot be imposed especially in mosques, graveyards and offices where normally no television sets exist. The issue is that although PTV fee is a nominal amount of Rs 35-45 per month it will result in accumulation of billion of rupees which will eventually be utilized for media cell established in Prime Minister House for the promotion of ruling party campaigns. It is shocking that our rulers deposit their own wealth in offshore companies and utilize public money for their personal advertisements. It was further argued that there is no such explicit provision in Pakistan Broadcasting Corporation Act 1973 which would justify the levy of PTV fee.

On the second issue the Deputy Attorney General vociferously argued that though the cable operators are promoting Indian porn stars through their private channels yet the determination of moral values is dependent upon individual’s conscience and neither the petitioner, nor the court posses the right to determine moral values of every individual.

Although the petition was not filed for the determination of moral values of every individual yet I argued on behalf of the petitioner that the courts are supposed to interpret the law keeping in consideration the relevant sections of Indecent Advertisements Prohibition Act 1963 and PEMRA Code of Conduct for the cable operators. Can somebody justify that the court cannot interfere into the arbitrariness of cable operators? These cable operators are showing porn stars and local theater actresses in porn videos including Indian film actresses resulting in promotion of lustful passion amongst the youth which is against the Indecent Advertisements Prohibition Act 1963 and PEMRA Code of Conduct.

The learned Deputy Attorney General again argued that in case somebody does not approve such content on television then he can simply stop watching such programs. Now I ask the readers that how can conduct of a man who is without clothes and walks in public spaces be justified and the onlookers are asked not to look at him because his individual moral conscience allows him to go naked in front of the public whereas people in the surrounding can close their eyes just like a man in his private room can use a remote control to change the channel.

The Deputy Attorney General further elaborated that there was a time when Saadat Hasan Manto’s novels such as Thanda Gosht were banned and now they are part of our classic Urdu Literature therefore the court should not interfere in such private matters and determine moral values which change over time.

In rebuttal I vociferously argued that first of all Saadat Hassan Manto, a genius, should not be compared with porn stars or Indian actresses who are cased in adult movies and if such people are given promotion in the advertisements then that day is not far when our own daughters and sisters would follow their footsteps and idealized them as role models. On one hand we witness and appreciate that police conducting raids in theaters to clamp down obscene dance performances and on the other hand we are giving justification of elite- models/actresses posing boldly in advertisements and magazines in the name of freedom of expression and art. These clearly amount to double standards.

The second point is that a child of eight year or nine years should not be left on his or her own whims to decide what to see on television as they lack the capacity to think in a mature manner. Third issue is that there is huge contradiction between what we read in the books and what we see on the media. It is lamentable to note this difference in the role-models about whom we study in the books and those celebrities being promoted and idealized as role models by the media.

All I can say is that on every issue we cannot and we should not imitate the western beliefs. The society where we live in constitutes common set of values, strong family system and Islamic concepts and teachings. Excess of everything is bad for a society which is witnessed either in the form of radical fundamentalism or ultra liberal beliefs. It is tragic that market forces are not being regulated. If market forces result in increased demand for porn stars then we as a society should really think about our moral character. Last but not least i will reiterate that the courts are not supposed to determine moral values but to interpret the law and in this case the question before the Honorable Court is whether the Information Ministry, PEMRA and cable operators have failed to enforce Code of Conduct and Indecent Advertisements Prohibition Act 1963 or not?

 

The writer appeared as counsel and argued the case on behalf of the petitioner.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of CourtingTheLaw.com or any organization with which he might be associated.

Sheraz Zaka

The writer is a practising lawyer and holds degrees in BA-LLB, LLM (UK) and ACCA (UK). He can be reached at sheraz.zaka@gmail.com



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