Journalist Asma Shirazi says faith in justice system restored after IHC orders ARY News to apologise to her

Published December 6, 2023
Journalist Asma Shirazi. — Photo via Asma Shirazi Twitter
Journalist Asma Shirazi. — Photo via Asma Shirazi Twitter

Two days after the Islamabad High Court reprimanded and ordered ARY News to apologise to journalist Asma Shirazi for using her image alongside a news report unrelated to her, Shirazi expressed her renewed faith in the justice system and hailed the verdict as a “landmark decision” for media professionals subjected to online and mainstream media intimidation and harassment.

“I am extremely emotional and yet this decision has restored my faith in justice system,” she said in a statement. “This is landmark decision not only for me but for all journalists who faced intimidation and harassment online and on mainstream media.”

Speaking to Dawn.com, Shirazi recalled that she was put under an “unfair and unjust media trial” two years ago when ARY News used her photos in their headlines while reporting a suo motu case pertaining to the highhandedness of journalists by the Federal Investigation Agency.

She elaborated that the said was case taken up for hearing after two journalists were “picked up” for allegedly commenting on former first lady Bushra Bibi. During the proceedings, Shirazi continued, then-judge Qazi Amin had expressed his displeasure on rumours of black magic associated with Imran Khan’s wife.

“Throughout the proceedings, my name was never brought up, neither was I mentioned, there were no comments on me or any other such thing,” she highlighted.

Shirazi added that she had written a column criticising the then-PTI government around the same time, but did not name Bushra Bibi or any other individual in it.

However, the journalist said a campaign — without any evidence — was launched against her by former PTI cabinet member after which she approached the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) and the IHC.

“In my CMA (civil miscellaneous appeal) to Islamabad High Court ‘Asma Shirazi vs Pemra Council of Complaints’, IHC’s Justice Mohsin Akhtar Kayani passed an order in my favour and ordered ARY News to broadcast an apology for their actions against me back in 2022 alongside paying damages to me,” she said.

Shirazi said a precedent has been set with the aforementioned verdict and Pakistan’s journalists have gotten a “line of action”.

“If someone is defaming you, whether on television channels or social media, you can now take them to court,” she added and requested incumbent CJP Qazi Faez Isa to introduce laws on defamation cases and their timely hearing.

Court order

In its verdict on Shirazi’s appeal, the court directed ARY News to pay the journalist Rs50,000 of nominal damages and broadcast an apology for her for the clarity of the public.

It noted that the news content and photos aired by ARY News “make no sense or justiciable impression as to why the photograph of the appellant has been placed along with remarks/ticker in the news repeatedly flashed on the particular day”.

“The court is of the view that editorial side and the airing committee of the licensee/respondent No.3 [the TV channel] is not vigilant enough that picture of the appellant was wrongly placed along with the news content, when she has nothing to do with that particular news item on aired by respondent No.3 […],” the verdict, a copy of which is available with Dawn.com, said.

It further highlighted that TV channels were bound to broadcast news and reports in the right way under Pemra laws.

“This Court is also mindful of the fact that every citizen shall have right to freedom of speech and expression, and there shall be freedom of the press, subject to any reasonable restrictions imposed by the law as defined in Article-19 of the Constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan, 1973, but that does not mean any news item has been aired in such a manner that appellant would be exposed to unjust criticism for no fault rather put to trial by media,” the IHC ruled.

The court added that the appellant still had the right to approach the competent court to seek damages under defamation law if advised.

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