KARACHI, Pakistan — Pakistan has a new weapon in its fight against terrorism: good behavior norms for the media.
A parliamentary panel has endorsed a list of 46 guidelines for television and print media, including censoring live reporting and setting up editorial boards to vet "each and every news, image, breaking news," according to a statement on the parliament's website.
To aid the psycho-social development of children the panel says "it's a bad idea to speak against the country's security apparatus," and recommends showing "good news first and if possible before bedtime."
Pakistan already has rules for reporting acts of terrorism and in June suspended the license of Geo TV for airing comments that accused the country's spy agency of involvement in an attack on a talk show host. The latest guidance comes after the massacre of 152 people, including 134 students, by Taliban terrorists in Peshawar on Dec. 16.
"It is important for a policy to be followed, but what the government is asking is impossible," said Zeshan M. Khan, director at Ilm TV. "Showing happy news at bedtime is simply not possible. But, it is necessary that channels do follow a code of conduct."
The panel headed by Marvi Memon, a lawmaker from Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's party, also recommended not to "emphasize too much about smaller events like rape, robberies and murder," as they can have "a much worse impact." The recommendations need approval from parliament.
The minutes of the meeting were "poorly drafted," Memon said, responding to the criticism on Twitter. "Absolutely clear that rape is a huge crime. Won't happen again," she said.
"It's not for the government or parliament to decide what the television or print media has to print or show," said Nasir Malick at Capital TV. "The journalists of this country have struggled for the freedom of the press against all dictatorial and military regimes. They were flogged, they were put in jails and as a result of those sacrifices we achieved that freedom."
The military has ruled Pakistan for more than half of its history. Citizens' first duty is to the State and this often demands submerging individual interests, according to the editorial in the latest issue of the army's magazine, which also carries articles on how to raise healthy children and recipes for Afghani Chicken Kebab.
The Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority in June ordered the suspension of Geo TV for two weeks and imposed a 10 million-rupee ($99,000) fine, according to a statement. Soon after an April 19 attack on journalist Hamid Mir, Geo broadcast comments alleging that officials of the Inter-Services Intelligence agency, or ISI, were behind the attack.
The committee also suggested that terrorists not be given coverage. Violators should be penalized, the panel said.
This "does not mean government demands something that is tantamount to censorship," said Azhar Abbas, president of Bol Television channel. "But media has to be responsible."
Prime Minister Sharif and army chief Raheel Sharif, who're not related, vowed to eliminate all terrorists operating in Pakistan after the attack on the school.
Following the "disaster," the media can play a "positive soothing healing role" for viewers, the panel said.