The Lahore High Court on Tuesday deferred a decision by the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) to suspend the licence of television channel 24NewsHD over "noncompliance with its terms of licence", issuing notices to the regulatory body and the federal government and seeking their replies on the matter during tomorrow's (Wednesday) hearing.
Pemra on Friday had suspended with "immediate effect" channel 24NewsHD's licence for "illegal transmission of news and current affairs content".
According to a press release issued by the regulatory authority, the channel Value TV — for which the license was issued to Central Media Network Pvt — had "illegally" changed its name to 24NewsHD. The channel was granted the licence to air entertainment content but instead it was "persistently illegally and unlawfully airing news and current affairs in continuous violation of Pemra laws", the statement had said.
The Central Media Network had challenged Pemra's suspension in the LHC, terming it "illegal" and nominated the federal government and Pemra as respondents.
In its petition, the media network said Pemra had issued a show-cause notice to the channel on May 5, adding that the channel's representative had attended a hearing on the matter on June 1 and a written reply had also been submitted.
However, the petition said, after a decision issued by the Pemra chairman on July 3, the channel's license was suspended on "alleged violation in change of logo and content without permission". The petition also stated that the channel had applied for a change in licence category in 2015, which was "partially approved".
The petition argued that an order could not be issued solely by the chairman of Pemra and required the signatures of all twelve members of the body. It also claimed that the authority had allowed variations in programming of other channels and that this was a case of "discrimination".
The petition called on the high court to set aside Pemra's decision and to issue a stay order until a judgment was given in the case.
Pemra's lawyer, while opposing the request for a stay order, argued that the case could not be heard in the LHC since all the proceedings had been conducted in Islamabad. The lawyer suggested that the media organisation should have approached the Islamabad High Court.
Justice Sajid Mehmood Sethi, who has decided to hear the case on a daily basis, after hearing the arguments ordered for the channel's licence to be reinstated and issued notices to the government and Pemra to respond during tomorrow's hearing.
Senior PML-N leader Ahsan Iqbal, during a press conference, lauded the court's decision, saying it had "put a stop to an oppressive step taken by the government".
On Monday, the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) had called for a countrywide strike to protest against the alleged highhandedness of Pemra authorities, suspension of the licence of TV Channel 24 and nonpayment of salaries to media workers.
The PFUJ also condemned the firing incident that took place during a protest organised by journalists outside Pemra's office.