The Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) has imposed a fine of Rs200,000 on news channel Neo News for airing "insensitive, demeaning, derogatory and hateful" remarks by cricketer Abdul Razzaq and others against Pakistan women's cricket team player Nida Dar during its programme 'G Sarkar with Nauman Ijaz'.
In a video clip from the programme broadcast on June 6, Razzaq was commenting on Dar’s appearance, strongly implying that the latter looked more like a man than a woman. The clip had caught the attention and ire of social media.
Subsequently, renowned tennis player Aisamul Haq Qureshi had filed a complaint with Pemra's Council of Complaints through Barrister Khadija Siddiqi, seeking action against Neo News.
According to Pemra's order in the case, a copy of which is available with Dawn.com, 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".
Following the submission of the complaint, the Council of Complaints observed that the comment on women leaving cricket after marriage was a "generalisation" that "leads to blatant discrimination against female gender".
Referring to comments by Razzaq, the council said that the cricketer 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.
"The female host is insinuating that short hair is too masculine and that women cricketers are somewhat an anomaly," the council said.
Making a reference to another comment by host and actor by Nauman Ijaz, where he asked why athletes didn't play the sport donning a three-piece suit, the council termed the remark "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," it said, adding that women deserved to be treated with respect and attacks motivated by gender were to be taken seriously.
The respondent's counsel, Amina Ali, maintained that remarks made during the show were "general in nature" and had been "misconstrued" by the petitioner to malign the reputation of the channel in question.
The respondent further submitted that the programme was "comic in nature" and "it is vital to understand that standards of humour or comedy includes more than often puns, playing on words and witty quips."
Ali added that hosts on the show were in "awe and admiration" of Dar and were seen "encouraging and supporting her".
She maintained that the comment of the host(s) were taken out of context, misrepresented and misconstrued.
"Thus, levelling such baseless accusations and frivolous claims tantamount to damage to the reputation and credibility of the Respondent Channel."
The council, however, concluded that the comments made against Dar were "insensitive, demeaning, derogatory and hateful", and in violation of Pemra laws. It recommended that a fine of Rs500,000 be imposed on Neo News and the channel be directed to issue an unconditional apology to the complainant and women as a whole and refrain from giving airtime to guest speakers with a history of making insensitive remarks towards women. It also called for directing all satellite channels to be "careful while airing content regarding women".
Pemra approved all the recommendations except for the imposition of a fine worth Rs500,000, instead imposing a fine of Rs200,000 on Neo News.
Commenting on the matter, the chairperson of Pemra Council of Complaints, Ahmad Pansota, said in a statement: "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 hosts and guests on the show ganged up to ridicule the cricketer, which was manifestly reflected from their continuous demeaning and repulsive comments," he said, adding that the judgement sent a loud and clear message that sexism and misogyny were not acceptable.
"They tantamount to discrimination, thus in violation of the Code of Conduct and Constitution of Pakistan," Pansota said.