The Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) has imposed a fine of Rs 200,000 on the private news channel Neo News. PEMRA said the channel aired “insensitive, demeaning, derogatory and hateful” against Pakistan women’s cricket team player Nida Dar.
Pakistan men’s team’s interim coach Abdul Razzaq and others made the callous remarks in the program ‘G Sarkar with Nauman Ijaz’, which was broadcasted on June 6. In the video clip of the program circulating on social media, Razzaq commented on Dar’s appearance, implying that she looked more like a man than a woman.
In the aftermath of the social media storm, Pakistan’s prominent tennis player Aisamul Haq Qureshi filed a complaint with PEMRA’s Council of Complaints through Barrister Khadija Siddiqi against Neo News.
PEMRA’s documents show that the complaint said the female host on the show also “degrades and shames the career adopted by female cricketers, expressly stating that female cricketers mostly leave cricket when they get married”.
Amina Ali, who was the counsel of the respondent, said that remarks in question were were “general in nature” and the petitioner had “misconstrued” them to malign the reputation of Neo News. The respondent added that the programme was “comic in nature” and “it is vital to understand that standards of humour or comedy include more than often puns, playing on words and witty quips.”
She said, “Thus, levelling such baseless accusations and frivolous claims tantamount to damage to the reputation and credibility of the Respondent Channel.”
The responding counsel said that the hosts on the show were in “awe and admiration” of Dar and were seen “encouraging and supporting her”. She reiterated that the complainant had misrepresented and misconstrued the comment of the host by taking them out of context.
The Council of Complaints said that the comment on women leaving cricket after marriage was a “generalisation” that “leads to blatant discrimination against female gender”. The council said that Razzaq was “implying a presupposed notion that cricket is a sport only meant for boys, who define the masculine nature of the sport”.
The order also made a reference to the female host asking Dar whether a cricket player could sport long hair saying, “The female host is insinuating that short hair is too masculine and that women cricketers are somewhat an anomaly.”
The council also highlighted a remark passed by the host and actor by Nauman Ijaz. Council said that Ijaz asking why athletes didn’t play the sport donning a three-piece suit was “very problematic, deep-rooted [in] misogyny and prejudice and contempt”.
“This attitude demonstrates how widely accepted the belief is that men are more entitled to behave misogynistically than women are entitled not to be treated hatefully,” the council said.
After listening to the responding counsel, the council concluded that the comments were in violation of PEMRA laws. The council also recommended a fine of Rs 500,000 – which was later decreased to Rs 200,000 – and ordered the channel to issue an unconditional apology to the complainant and the women as a whole. The council also directed the channel to refrain from inviting guests who have a history of making insensitive remarks towards women. The council also urged satellite channels to be “careful while airing content regarding women”.
In a statement, the Chairperson of PEMRA Council of Complaints Ahmad Pansota praised the decision of the council. Pansota said, “Another distinguished judgement passed by Pemra Council of Complaints … on the sexist, misogynistic, gender-stereotypical insensitive comments passed by the Host, co-hosts and the guest cricketer Abdul Razzak aired on Neo, targeting Nida Dar, an accomplished female cricketer.”
The council chairperson said, “The hosts and guests on the show ganged up to ridicule the cricketer, which was manifestly reflected from their continuous demeaning and repulsive comments. They are tantamount to discrimination, thus in violation of the Code of Conduct and Constitution of Pakistan.”
Pansota said that the judgement sent a loud and clear message that sexism and misogyny were not acceptable.