Three separate petitions were filed in the Lahore and Islamabad high courts on Thursday against a notification from the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) barring the reporting and airing of content on sub-judice matters.

According to a notification issued by the ele­ctronic media regulator on Tuesday, television channels were directed to “refrain from airing tickers/headlines with regard to court proceedings and shall only report the written orders of court”.

However, where court proceedings were broadcast live, the proceedings may be reported, the notification had said.

It had also said that all satellite TV channel licences were directed to not air content, including commentary, opinions or suggestions, about the potential fate of sub-judice matters which could prejudice their determination by a court or tribunal could be aired.

The ban came amid strong remarks by Islamabad High Court (IHC) senior puisne judge Justice Mohsin Akhtar Kayani about the intelligence agencies and government officials in multiple court hearings on the case of a missing Kashmiri poet.

The remarks had prompted criticism from Law Minister Azam Nazeer Tarar who said that such remarks from court proceedings should not make their way into the public domain.

He had said: “It would be good if whatever the decision is, is passed through a court order instead of such sensationalised news coming out which spreads more unrest.”

Pemra had subsequently barred reporting on court proceedings.

However, the Press Association of the Supreme Court (PAS) and the Islamabad High Court Journalists Association (IHCJA) had rejected the Pemra notification in a joint statement on Wednesday, saying that the gag order was against the independence of the courts.

“Pemra has no legal authority to prohibit the reporting of court proceedings,” the joint statement had said.

“Article 19 (freedom of expression) and 19A of the Constitution gives the right of access to information to the public,” the statement said, adding that the notification issued by Pemra was a “flagrant violation” of the Constitution.

Both associations had called for the withdrawal of the notification, warning that they would otherwise challenge it in court.

Today, two separate petitions were filed in the Lahore High Court and one by the PAS and IHCJA in the IHC against the Pemra notification.

The petitions mentioned as respondents the Pemra chairman and director general, the federal government through the secretaries for interior and law and parliamentary affairs.

The petitions in the LHC were fixed for hearing on Friday by Justice Abid Aziz Sheikh. They were filed by Advocate Samra Malik herself and Hafiz Muhammad Zain Ul Abdin through Advocates Azhar Siddique and Khawaja hmad Tariq Rahim, respectively.

The petitions called for the Pemra notification to be suspended, set aside and declared illegal.

Meanwhile, the petition in the IHC also called for the Pemra notification to be declared illegal and unconstitutional.

“The impugned notifications cannot be considered an order, decision or determination of the authority because they are not the result of the deliberation process” as per the relevant Pemra rules, the plea argued.

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