The government on Saturday instructed the Pakistan Electronic Media and Regulatory Authority (Pemra) to reverse a ban on television channels from broadcasting or rebroadcasting PTI Chairman Imran Khan’s press conferences.
According to a statement released by Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif ordered the media watchdog to ensure the continued implementation of legal requirements under Article 19 (freedom of speech) of the Constitution.
The statement said that the direction to lift the ban was given under Section 5 of the Pemra Ordinance 2002.
“The prime minister has established a new tradition by ending the bitter traditions of Imran Khan’s era,” the information minister said, adding that the government did not believe in “what Imran Khan did during his four years in power” with the then opposition leaders and politicians.
“We believe in democratic principles and constitutional freedoms of expression. Banning political opponents, leaders, activists and media has been Imran Khan’s negative thinking and attitude.
“If Imran Khan wants to speak against political opponents, then let him speak. Let Imran Khan’s speech against us reach the public so that the reality of this menace becomes clear to them,” Aurangzeb said.
She added that the government had democratic thinking unlike “fascist Imran Khan”.
Hours earlier, a Pemra notice, available with Dawn.com, said that Imran during his long march speeches and a day ago had “made aspersions against the state institutions by levelling baseless allegations for orchestrating an assassination plan”.
A day ago in his first press conference since the assassination attempt on him at Wazirabad, Imran doubled down on his accusations against Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah and a senior intelligence official who he identified as Major General Faisal Naseer — without giving any evidence — of hatching a plot to eliminate him, and demanded they immediately resign to ensure a fair investigation.
He also asked army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa to take notice of the attack and the alleged involvement of a military officer, whom he called “black sheep” in the army. He also urged Chief Justice of Pakistan Umar Ata Bandial to provide him justice.
Since he claimed a first information report of the attack was not being registered over fears of a backlash from the ‘higher powers’, Imran urged the army chief to remove spy agency officer Maj Gen Faisal Naseer and investigate him for allegedly hatching a conspiracy to kill him.
Pemra, in its notice, reproduced the above comments along with further transcriptions of Imran’s speeches or talks at different points during his long march to Islamabad.
It added that airing such content was likely to create “hatred among the people” or was prejudicial to the maintenance of law and order or was likely to disturb public peace and tranquillity or endanger national security, further saying that it violated several laws and articles.
Pemra termed Imran’s comments as “hateful, slanderous, vilifying and unwarranted statements against country’s leadership and state institutions,” adding that they were in sheer violation of various laws.
The notice said that tv channels had aired Imran’s comments without any editorial oversight or time delay mechanism and thus it was prohibiting the broadcast of his speeches with immediate effect.
“In case of any violation, observed licence may be suspended … without any show-cause notice in the public interest along with other enabling provisions of law,” the notice reads.
Responding to the development, PTI Senator Faisal Javed said the party would challenge the ban in court and that “millions still would continue to watch Imran’s speeches on digital media.”
PTI leader Fawad Chaudhry also criticised the ban as an ill-thought move and said it would be challenged.