ISLAMABAD: In a surprise move, the federal government on Saturday directed the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) to withdraw a ban, announced earlier in the day, on the telecast of live or recorded speeches by PTI Chairman Imran Khan.
Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb said in a statement that directives had been issued by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif to ensure the ban “should be terminated”.
At the same time, she said, Pemra should ensure “continued implementation of legal requirements under Article 19 of the Constitution”.
Had it remained in the field, the ban would have been the second restriction imposed by Pemra on Mr Khan within a span of three months for allegedly making reckless statements against institutions and violating the provisions of the Constitution related to the freedom of speech.
The previous ban, announced in August, was lifted on the orders of the Islamabad High Court (IHC). The decision to ban Mr Khan from airtime was taken in light of his statements regarding the military.
In the order, Pemra had directed the satellite television channels to stop broadcasting Mr Khan’s media talks and speeches — live or recorded — from Saturday evening onwards.
Pemra’s decision referred to Mr Khan’s speech broadcast by almost all TV channels on Friday in which “Mr Khan levelled baseless allegations against the state institutions which were tantamount to hatching conspiracy against them”.
Pemra said that airing such content could instigate brewing hatred among the masses, adding that damaging peace or putting national security at risk was sheer violation of Article 19.
Pemra had reprimanded the TV channels, stating “contents of his speeches are being rebroadcast on various TV channels in their talk shows and news bulletins without any editorial oversight”.
The regulator said it was a violation of Article 19, as well as Section 27 of Pemra Ordinance 2002, and the Electronic Media Code of Conduct 2015.
Earlier on Aug 20, Pemra had banned broadcasting of Mr Khan’s live speeches after he hurled threats to the Islamabad police officials, saying he will not spare them and lodge a case against them for “torturing” party leader Shahbaz Gill during physical remand. He also called out Additional District and Sessions Judge Zeba Chaudhry for approving the police request of physical remand despite knowing that Gill was subjected to “torture”.
However, on Aug 29 the IHC suspended Pemra’s order.
Published in Dawn, November 6th, 2022