Pemra stops TV channels from airing motorway rape news

Published October 3, 2020
This photo shows the building of the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority. — Dawn/File
This photo shows the building of the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority. — Dawn/File

LAHORE: The Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) on Friday restrained all television channels from airing news about the Sialkot motorway gang-rape incident in the light of an order passed by the trial court on the request of the police.

“All satellite TV channels (news & current affairs) are therefore directed to comply with the orders of the honorable Anti-Terrorism Court, Lahore, regarding Sialkot motorway incident in letter and spirit and refrain from airing any content with regard to the instant case, in future,” said a directive issued by Pemra’s General Manager (Operations-Broadcast Media) Muhammad Tahir.

Investigating Officer Zulfiqar Cheema had filed an application before the ATC seeking a ban on media coverage of the incident. The IO pleaded that the incident was a heinous offence and the media was indulged in reckless coverage of the instant case. He claimed that the media reporting would damage and diminish the evidence so far collected by the police.

Cheema further told the court that the media coverage of the incident had been creating hindrance in the arrest of the prime suspect.

Deputy Prosecutor General Waqar Abid Bhatti supported the stance of the IO and relied upon section 13(2) of Punjab Witness Protection Act 2018.

The section reads, “The reporting of the identity of a person connected with an offence of terrorism or a sexual offence or the identity of the members of his family shall be prohibited in print, electronic or other media, if the court is satisfied that the quality or voluntariness of the evidence of the person concerned will diminish thereby.”

In his decision, Presiding Judge Arshad Hussain Bhutta admitted the contention of the IO and observed that it was an offence relating to sex and certainly due to media coverage the victim and his family will also be disgraced.

The judge also noted that one of suspects had been shifted to jail for identification parade and if media coverage of the case was not stopped, it would certainly diminish the evidentiary worth of the material collected by the prosecution.

“So chairman Pemra is hereby directed to stop the coverage of case FIR No.1369/2020 of Sept 9, 2020, offence under section 392, 376 (II), 427, 34 of PPC and 7 Anti-terrorism Act 1997, police station Gujjarpura, Lahore immediately on electronic media, print and social media,” wrote the judge in his verdict.

Published in Dawn, October 3rd, 2020

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