The Lahore High Court (LHC) on Thursday suspended an order issued by the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) banning TV analyst Hafeezullah Khan Niazi from appearing on television channels for 30 days.
The high court took the decision while hearing an appeal filed yesterday by Niazi against Pemra's ban, which was imposed for his alleged "defamatory" remarks against Senator Azam Swati in the programme "Report Card" aired on Geo TV on July 6.
In his appeal, Niazi said that the regulatory body had not issued him a show cause notice and he was not summoned by the Council of Complaints and thus had been "condemned unheard in violation of Article 10(a) of the Constitution" which gives every citizen the right to fair trial. He had declared the ban as "illegal, unjustified hence liable to be struck down".
He had urged the court to suspend Pemra's order until the issuance of a verdict on the petition.
During today's hearing of the petition, the high court issued notices to Swati, Pemra, the body's regional general manager and the information ministry — who have been made respondents in Niazi's petition — and demanded a response by October 10.
Niazi, in Geo TV's programme Report Card, had claimed that a relative of the premier had said that Swati's entry was banned in United States because he had committed insurance fraud.
In response to the journalist's claims, Swati said that Niazi's statements had damaged his credibility.
He had said at the time that he had filed a case against Niazi as well as Geo TV with Pemra and intended to file a defamation suit against them claiming Rs1 billion in damages.
The senator had further said that Niazi would have to apologise to the viewers in the same programme to avoid further legal action, or prove the allegation.
Pemra said its Council of Complaints extended sufficient time to Geo TV to prove the veracity of the comments uttered by the analyst during the programme. However, the channel could not come up with a satisfactory reply, following which the body on October 1 imposed a ban on Niazi's appearance on TV channels for a month.
Swati had said he had gone to the US in 1978 and remained there till 2001. “I have no case against me for the last 45 years,” the minister had maintained.