Journalists firm against Pemra ban on airing proclaimed offenders’ speeches

Published November 27, 2020
The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) and 16 journalists, anchorpersons and media analysts filed the petition in the Islamabad High Court (IHC) against the Pemra’s prohibition order.
— IHC website/File
The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) and 16 journalists, anchorpersons and media analysts filed the petition in the Islamabad High Court (IHC) against the Pemra’s prohibition order. — IHC website/File

ISLAMABAD: In an interesting development, two of the six journalists who earlier sought withdrawal of their names from a petition challenging an order of the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority have decided to stand firm with the petition against Pemra’s order to all TV news channels banning the broadcast of speeches and interviews of the proclaimed offenders and absconders.

Pemra had issued the directives after Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) supreme leader Nawaz Sharif’s speech was broadcast live by the electronic media while he was addressing a multi-party conference via a video link from London in October.

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) and 16 journalists, anchorpersons and media analysts filed the petition in the Islamabad High Court (IHC) against the Pemra’s prohibition order.

The petitioners include I.A. Rehman, Mohammad Ziauddin, Saleem Safi, Zahid Hussain, Asma Shirazi, Syed Ejaz Haider, Munizae Jahangir, Ghazi Salahuddin, Zubeida Mustafa, Najam Sethi, Nasim Zehra, Amber Rahim Shamsi, Gharida Farooqi, Mehmal Sarfraz and Mansoor Ali Khan.

Two of six journalists who previously sought removal of their names from petition will now pursue the case

Vice chairman of the Pakistan Bar Council Abid Saqi and HRCP’s Saleema Hashmi are also among the petitioners.

The petition challenged the Pemra’s Oct 1 order and another directive issued on May 25, 2019. Besides banning the above-mentioned broadcast, Pemra also banned the broadcast of any debate on possible outcomes of sub judice matters.

A day earlier, Advocate Ghulam Sabir filed six applications on behalf of Ms Farooqi, Ms Sarfraz, Mr Hussain, Ms Zehra, Ms Shirazi and Mr Safi for withdrawal of their names from the petition. However, the lawyer told the court that Ms Farooqi and Ms Sarfraz were unwilling to withdraw the main petition and requested it to treat their applications as withdrawn.

Subsequently, IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah dismissed the withdrawal applications of Ms Farooqi and Ms Sarfraz.

Justice Minallah, however, allowed deleting the names of four journalists — Mr Hussain, Ms Shirazi, Ms Zehra and Mr Safi — from the list of the petitioners.

The petition contended that the order of the electronic media watchdog was “unconstitutional and illegal prohibitions have been imposed on the electronic media of Pakistan with respect to the dissemination of information. This prohibition is a constitutional wrong in its own right and amounts [to] nullifying the rights made available under Article 19A of the Constitution”.

According to the petition, it is the right of the petitioners and of the print and electronic media in general to express, publish, disseminate, relay and broadcast the views and words of any person, including a convict, proclaimed offender or an absconder. “Is a convict, proclaimed offender or absconder dep­rived of the fundamental rights guaranteed by the Constitution, including the right to express?” the petition asked.

Published in Dawn, November 27th, 2020

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