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Shireen Mazari Criticises PEMRA Order Barring Anchors From Appearing As Experts

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Minister for Human Rights Shireen Mazari has criticised a recent PEMRA order directing TV anchors to not give their ‘opinions’ during talk shows and to not ‘appear as experts’.

In a tweet targeting at the regulatory body’s order, the human rights minister asked who an ‘expert’ was. She questioned if she needed a degree in politics to be an expert in the field. She also pointed out that she did not possess a degree in human rights and asked whether she should appear on talk shows and talk about human rights.

The Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) has barred television anchors from giving their ‘opinions’ during talk shows and has restricted their role to that of a ‘moderator’.

In an order issued on Sunday, the media regulatory authority, has also directed anchors hosting regular shows ‘to not appear as experts’ in talk shows in both their own and other channels. Moreover, PEMRA has also advised media houses to choose the guests of their talk shows keeping in view their knowledge and expertise in a particular subject.

The directive further stated that participants with ‘credibility as fair and unbiased analysts’ should be selected and anchors should ‘exclude themselves from their personal opinions, biases and judgements’ and should not appear as ‘a subject matter expert’.

In response to the directive, the HR minister was also of the view that this was a debate that the media should focus on, but in an apparent jibe at PEMRA’s order, asked what ‘experts’ would be needed for this debate.

Moreover, journalist Hamid Mir voiced his strong disapproval over the directive, saying that PEMRA was making fun of laws by dictating anchors not to appear as experts.

Academic and activist Shama Junejo came out in support of the order, reminding her audience that the role of anchors is to moderate the programme.

Journalist Muhammad Malick urged the media community to take a firm stand against PEMRA’s order.

PEMRA’s order and the criticism against it have received varying responses from people. While some were critical of the order, others supported the view that people should restrict their analysis to the area of their expertise. One Twitter user opined that businessmen could not be asked to give their opinions on the economy.

In response to the minister’s question about a person needing a degree to give their opinion, another user stated that a person who is not an expert on a topic should not be allowed to appear on TV and confuse the public.

Another user disagreed with the minister and pointed out people needing training and expertise to diagnose diseases and perform surgeries.

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