ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) has reserved its order on a petition filed by anchorperson Dr Shahid Masood against a decision by Pemra to take his talk show off air for 45 days.
Justice Aamer Farooq, after hearing the arguments of counsel for a private television channel, the anchorperson and the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra), reserved the order on the petition.
Pemra had imposed the 45-day ban on “Live with Dr Shahid Masood” after an episode about the Sindh High Court’s chief justice.
On Wednesday Pemra counsel Ali Gillani argued before the court that television anchors cannot be allowed to defame people without proof.
“It is against journalistic ethics for TV anchors to set up their own courts and announce verdicts about people.”
Mr Gillani said the Supreme Court had taken note of the situation and sought a reply from the electronic media regulator about disciplinary action taken against TV channels running “malicious campaigns against the judiciary”.
Justice Farooq asked the lawyer whether responsibility for airing of an objectionable conversation lay on the channel or the anchor. The counsel replied that the channel had violated the conditions for issuance of the licence and the anchor violated the code of conduct. “The responsibility lies on both,” Ali Gillani contended.
He argued that Dr Masood had never filed an appeal against Perma’s order. If Pemra ordinance was implemented in its totality, almost half of all television channels would go off air, he added.
Under the agreement, no channel can air any content against any person without evidence.
During the last hearing, the IHC bench had directed Pemra to submit verified copies of the orders issued by a Supreme Court bench in reaction to programmes on electronic media against judges of the superior judiciary.
The ARY’s Shah Khawar concluded his arguments by saying that Dr Masood had named no judge in any of his programmes. However, he contended, it was Pemra which committed contempt of court by naming the judge through its notice.
He further argued that Pemra could initiate action only after receiving a complaint. No complaint was filed against Dr Masood’s programme, he recalled. The regulator, “acting beyond its ambit, imposed a ban without giving an opportunity to the anchor”, Shah Khawar said.
“Pemra’s council of complaints doesn’t have the powers to even recommend a ban on a television channel,” Khawar added.
Published in Dawn, September 8th, 2016