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Objectionable and unlawful content: Pakistani court directs authorities to take action on application against BBC Urdu

MULTAN, Pakistan: A Pakistani court has ordered the Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication and the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) to respond and take action within four weeks on an application seeking the removal of “unethical, objectionable and unlawful” content from BBC Urdu within 30 days.

The Lahore High Court (LHC) has ordered the respondents to entertain the petition filed by Jawad Zulkifal Bhutta.

LHC Multan bench’s Justice Sardar Ahmed Naeem heard the petition stating that the ministry had not taken any action on a complaint filed against objectionable content published by BBC Urdu.

Petitioner Bhutta maintained that he filed a complaint with the authorities of the information technology department and the Federal Investigation Agency on April 21 against objectionable content published by BBC Urdu. The said application was turned down by the Ministry of Information and Technology and the FIA for the reasons best known to them.

The petitioner requested the court to direct both the respondents to ensure the removal of objectionable online content from the Facebook pages of BBC Urdu citing violation of Article 19 of the Constitution of Pakistan and to take necessary legal action against the publisher.

Commenting on the court’s decision, Bhutta said the court has directed the respondents to entertain his application within 30 days. He was of the view that freedom of expression does not mean spreading vulgarity. “I am a staunch supporter of freedom of expression and free and fair journalism. Bu the same should not violate the norm and values of a nation,” he asserted.

Meanwhile, Zubair Mansoori, a Karachi-based journalist, said he had been following the BBC Urdu news website for years. “I found out that BBC Urdu has started pushing certain agenda news items that are against the norms, values and culture of our country. It is an attack on our values. It is a cultural invasion. I have observed that BBC Urdu has been promoting news on sex and vulgarity which is completely contrary to our values. Even minor and trivial issues had been highlighted by the publisher bringing a bad name to the country.”

He also mentioned that BBC Urdu website management blocked his comments on the publisher’s Facebook page which was completely against the norms of fair journalism.

BBC has been taken as the torchbearer of unbiased and fair journalism; however, masses have been debating the neutrality of the broadcasting corporation.

On May 29, protesters climbed onto the BBC building at Media City and let off flares as hundreds gathered to protest against its coverage of the Israel-Palestine conflict.

Chanting “BBC shame on you” protestors gathered outside the BBC in Salford before marching en-masse around Media City.

Speakers labelled the BBC the “Biased Broadcasting Corporation” and claimed the organisation has barely allowed Palestinians a voice when reporting on the conflict.

“In an oppression, why not speak to the oppressed?” one speaker said.

The BBC launched a separate complaints page over its coverage of the Israel-Palestine violence after viewers complained about its reporting with many people taking to social media to slam ‘biased’ coverage of the situation.

The protesters, waving Palestinian flags and brandishing placards declared: “We are not going to stop until Palestine is free.”

Chanting “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free, one, two, three, four – occupation no more,” they let off colourful flares and took the knee to show solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement.

A BBC spokesperson said: “The BBC covered the recent escalation in the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians with due impartiality.

“We reported on, and analysed, its causes, the views of both sides and the response from the international community.

“We covered the action taken by Israel and Hamas, making clear the casualties on both sides, and in doing so reflected the complexities of the wider conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.”