KARACHI/LAHORE: The Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) has directed TV channels to not broadcast content about the conduct of sitting high court and Supreme Court judges, Dawn.com reported on Thursday.

In the prohibition order, the regulator referred to previous directives to “refrain from telecasting any content against state institutions”.

The authority noted that despite repeated directives, television channels were “persistently discussing the conduct of honourable judges of superior courts and orchestrating a vilification campaign through airing slanderous allegations”.

It said that airing any sort of content which prima facie refers to the conduct of judges or is against the superior judiciary is a sheer violation of the authority’s laws and judgements of the apex court.

Pemra referred to Article 68 of the Constitution, stating: “No discussion shall take place in Majlis-i-Shoora (Parliament) with respect to the conduct of any Judge of the Supreme Court or of a High Court in the discharge of his duties.”

LHC suspends ban on broadcasting Imran Khan’s speeches

“Therefore, the competent authority i.e. chairman Pemra, in exercise of delegated powers of the authority vested in Section 27(a) of the Pemra Ordinance, 2002 as amended by Pemra (Amendment) Act, 2007, prohibits broadcast/rebroadcast of any content pertaining to conduct of Honourable sitting judges of High Court and Supreme Court, in any manner, on electronic media (news bulletins, talks shows etc.), with immediate effect,” the order said.

In case of non-compliance, the licence will be suspended under Section 30 of the Pemra Ordinance, 2002 without any show-cause notice, the order said.

Pemra’s directives come after audio leaks supposedly linked to a Supreme Court judge surfaced. On Feb 16, three audio clips, featuring former Punjab chief minister Parvez Elahi were leaked on social media.

Ban on Imran’s speeches suspended

In a separate development, the Lahore High Court (LHC) suspended Pemra’s ban on broadcasting PTI chairman Imran Khan’s speeches and press talks on television channels.

The LHC, on Thursday, passed an interim order on Mr Khan’s petition. Justice Shams Mahmood Mirza observed the impugned order did not identify any specific instance of the allegations made by the petitioner (Mr Khan) against state institutions and their officials.

“In view of the constitutional guarantees of freedom of speech provided by the Constitution, the appellant has prima facie made out the case for grant of injunctive relief as an interim measure,” the judge said in his order.

During the proceedings, Pemra’s counsel Haroon Dugal objected to the maintainability of the petition on the ground of territorial jurisdiction. He said Pemra’s order was passed in Islamabad therefore, the LHC has no territorial jurisdiction to entertain a challenge against it.

Mr Dougal pointed out that a matter relating to the territorial jurisdiction of the LHC to hear appeals against orders passed by the Pemra was already sub judice before a larger bench headed by the LHC chief justice.

Justice Mirza admitted the petition and directed the registrar office to fix it before the larger bench for hearing on March 13 along with other similar matters relating to the Pemra.

Till the next date of hearing, the judge said, the order shall remain suspended.

Barrister Ahmad Pansota, on behalf of the PTI chief, argued that Pemra’s order violated the constitutional rights guaranteed under Articles 19 and 19-A of the Constitution.

He said Section 27 of the Pemra ordinance, prima facie, does not empower the authority to issue a blanket prohibition order.

Wajih Ahmad Sheikh in Lahore also contributed to this report

Published in Dawn, March 10th, 2023

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