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SC lashes out at Pemra for changing placement of news channels

Updated October 11, 2018

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SC judge Justice Qazi Faez Isa. — Photo/File
SC judge Justice Qazi Faez Isa. — Photo/File

Supreme Court (SC) judge Justice Qazi Faez Isa on Thursday assailed the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) for changing the placement of private news channels, including DawnNewsTV and Geo News.

"TV channels that are not following a certain agenda will face restrictions?" he asked the Pemra director general. "Do you only want to watch channels that you like?"

The court was hearing a suo motu case regarding the 2017 Faizabad sit-in that disrupted life in Islamabad and Rawalpindi for nearly 20 days. During the last hearing of the case, Justice Isa had inquired if the news of restrictions being placed on TV channels was true. He was told by the Pemra representative that the body had changed the placement of a few news channels, moving them down the list.

During today's hearing, the bench ordered Pemra to submit a detailed response regarding restrictions placed on news channels. It also inquired as to why its previous orders regarding ensuring the people's right to information had not been implemented.

On complaints by representatives of Geo News and DawnNewsTV regarding restrictions on their channels and publications in some areas, the court had in April directed the deputy attorney general to ensure "that fundamental rights of the people including the right of information (Article 19-A of the Constitution) [are] strictly enforced and all newspapers and media channels are freely made available to the citizens of Pakistan".

Separately, the bench issued a notice to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), demanding a response regarding the registration of Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) — that staged the Faizabad sit-in — as a political party.

The ECP was also ordered to submit TLP's request for registration in the next hearing.

The case was adjourned until the second week of November.