The Islamabad High Court (IHC), in its written order issued on Tuesday, “set aside” the Pakistan Media Regulatory Authority’s (Pemra) ban on the live telecast of PTI chairman Imran Khan’s speeches.
On August 20, while addressing a rally in Islamabad to express solidarity with party leader Dr Shahbaz Gill facing proceedings in a sedition case, Imran warned the judiciary against its “biased” attitude and warned the judge who sent Mr Gill on physical remand to brace for consequences.
Subsequently, a ban was imposed on the live broadcast of Imran’s speeches after which he approached the court for the order’s reversal.
At the hearing of the case on Monday, the IHC had disposed of Imran’s petition.
In a written order, IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah said that the counsel of the watchdog was “not able to satisfy the court that a blanket prohibition order could be passed under Section 27 of the Pemra Ordinance”.
The law states that the authority can, by order in writing and giving reasons, prohibit any broadcast media or distribution service operator from “broadcasting or re-broadcasting or distributing any programme or advertisement if it is of the opinion that such a particular programme or advertisement is against the ideology of Pakistan or is likely to create hatred among the people or is prejudicial to the maintenance of law and order”.
The court instructed the watchdog to ensure the implementation of orders given by the Supreme Court binding on Pemra and the licensees.
Previously, the apex court had directed Pemra to devise a standard operating procedure for live coverage, in pursuant to which, the electronic media had introduced a time-delay mechanism.
“In case the licensees fail to effectively implement the directions regarding delaying mechanism, then Pemra will be expected to proceed against such delinquent licensees in accordance with the law,” the IHC stated
Subsequently, the court set aside Pemra’s prohibition orders on Imran’s speeches.
In his petition, Imran contended that the ban was illegal, unlawful, more than its jurisdiction, and contrary to the fundamental rights under the Constitution of Pakistan, 1973.
“The Impugned Notice in effect has prohibited all news channels from airing live speeches of the former Prime Minister Mr Appellant based on spreading hate speech and making provocative statements against state institutions and officers. It is submitted that no hate speech or any such statements were made against the state institutions during his speech which entails such penal consequences as notified in the Impugned Notice,” it stated.
The PTI chief argued that under the Pemra Ordinance, one-thirds of the total members of the watchdog were supposed to constitute quorum for the meetings requiring a decision by the authority which comprised a chairman and 12 members [13 in all].
“It is submitted that according to the Pemra’s own press release, the meeting of the authority at which the impugned order was passed was presided over by the Chairman and 3 Members namely, Chairman FBR Muhammad Irshad, Member KPK Shaheen Habibullah, and Member Punjab Nargis Nasir.”
Furthermore, the petition said that the ban was also a violation of Article 19 of the Constitution which states: “Every citizen shall have the right to freedom of speech and expression and there shall be freedom of press, subject to any reasonable restrictions imposed by law in the interest of the glory of Islam or the integrity, security or defence of Pakistan or any part thereof friendly relations with foreign states, public order, decency or morality or in relation to contempt of Court (commission of) or incitement to an offence.”
It also accused the order to be “driven out of vengeance”, adding that Pemra’s actions were illegal, invalid, and without lawful authority.
Hence, the petition prayed that the watchdog’s ban should be declared illegal, without lawful authority.
Imran, who has alleged that Gill has been subjected to “sexual abuse” and “physical and mental torture” in custody, had lambasted police over the accusation and judge Chaudhry for allowing Gill’s remand at a rally in Islamabad on Saturday.
He had threatened to file cases against Islamabad’s inspector general of police and deputy inspector general of police and declared: “We won’t spare you.” He had then warned the judiciary against its “biased” attitude towards his party, saying that it should brace itself for the consequences.
The PTI chairperson had warned judge Chaudhry that she would also face dire consequences.
Subsequently, he was booked under Section 7 of the Anti-Terrorism Act (punishment for acts of terrorism).