LAHORE: The Pakistan Elec­tronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) told the Lahore High Court on Thursday there was no ban on media coverage of jailed PTI founding chairman Imran Khan.

Pemra’s counsel Harron Duggal stated this during the hearing of a petition of former prime minister Imran Khan questioning alleged violation of a stay order against the ban on media coverage of his speeches.

The petition was filed before Mr Khan’s arrest in the Toshakhana case.

Pemra’s lawyer also said the authority would comply with the directions of the court.

Justice Shams Mahmood Mirza disposed of the petition with an observation that appropriate directions would be issued to Pemra, in a detailed verdict, to ensure a level playing field is given to all political parties regarding broadcasting of their content and speeches in media.

The judge said that directions would also be issued to news channels not to create any hindrance for any particular party regarding transmission of their content and politico-economic agenda.

On behalf of the federation, Assistant Attorney General Sheraz Zaka said similar standards must be followed by the LHC which have been set by the Supreme Court in the Faizabad sit-in case regarding imposition of the ban on speeches of Khadim Husain Rizvi.

Mr Zaka asserted the petitioner (Imran Khan) was involved in making hateful speeches against the armed forces of the country.

He said the court must strike a balance between maintenance of public order and freedom of speech as fundamental rights were not absolute but subject to a law.

Justice Mirza observed that times have changed and in this era of social media where everyone has technology gadgets, such a ban on freedom of speech is a futile exercise.

He said that elections are around the corner and, therefore, all political parties must be given freedom to communicate and advance their agenda to the masses.

Advocate Ahmad Pansota, who represented petitioner Imran Khan, said the government has violated a court’s order and banned coverage of Mr Khan in the media.

The lawyer said that the government also jailed the former prime minister besides silencing his voice in media.

Published in Dawn, January 5th, 2024

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