LAHORE: The producers of Joyland have approached the Lahore High Court challenging a ban on the exhibition of the film in Punjab by the provincial government.

The hearing of a writ petition filed by the Distribution Club (Pvt.) Limited and film’s co-producer Sana Zahra has also been fixed for Wednesday (today) before Justice Muzamil Akhtar Shabbir.

The petition states the film has initially been approved for screening throughout Pakistan by both the central and provincial film censor boards in August 2022. The film was then screened at international film festivals, including the prestigious Cannes Film Festival where it was critically acclaimed and won numerous awards.

It says the film is also Pakistan’s official Academy Award Nomination for the year 2022. It has been lauded as one of the finest masterpieces by the Pakistan cinema industry.

Following the hype generated through national and international media, there was a pressure from within certain segments of the Pakistan population calling for a ban on the film based on “moral grounds”.

The central government gave in to the demand and banned the film nationwide on Nov 11, 2022. In response, there was a widespread social media uproar against the ban, which forced the federal government to constitute a “censor board review committee” which lifted the nationwide ban subsequently.

After the lifting of the nationwide ban, the Punjab government banned the release of the film in the province on grounds of “receiving complaints”.

Advocate Usama Khawar, the counsel for the petitioners, argues that it is astonishing how the Punjab government already received complaints when the film has not even screened yet. He says the ban is clearly an attempt to silence the media industry, suppress creativity, and letting the dominant narrative of a certain segment of society prevail.

The counsel contends that the film is currently being screened throughout the rest of Pakistan, and the residents of Punjab are demanding the film be released in their province as well.

The producers, the production house, along with numerous members of the cinema industry are calling for the removal of the ban and are criticising the Punjab government’s actions.

He argues the ban imposed through the order of the government does not even fulfill legal requirements to constitute a valid executive action.

The petition, in addition to the protection of fundamental right of freedom of speech and expression, calls for the accountability of the Punjab government in taking such arbitrary and illegal actions.

Published in Dawn, November 30th, 2022

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