• Pleas in IHC, LHC say directive is ‘against media freedom’
• New order restrains media from airing material that may constitute contempt

ISLAMABAD/LAHORE: In resp­o­nse to a directive issued by Pemra banning the live coverage of court proceedings on news channels, multiple petitions assailing the order have been submitted to the high courts of Lahore and Islamabad.

In the Islamabad High Court, press associations of the Supreme Court and the IHC filed a joint petition on Thursday, which directed “all satellite news channel licensees that no content, including commentary, opinions, or suggestions about the potential fate of such sub-judice matter which tends to prejudice the determination by a court shall be aired”.

Pemra also restricted television channels from airing tickers/headlines with regard to court proceedings, saying they shall only report the written orders. However, the channels are allowed to report court proceedings which are broadcast live. It also warned of legal action in case of any violation by the TV channels.

The petition filed before the IHC said: “By imposing a blackout on court proceedings without even consulting the judiciary, Pemra is effectively committing an assault on the independence of the judiciary, in addition to violating the public’s right of access to information, journalists’ freedom of speech and litigants’ right to a fair trial.”

On the other hand, Justice Abid Aziz Sheikh of the Lahore High Court will hear today (Friday) two petitions challenging the Pemra order that restricted the coverage of court proceedings on news channels to written orders.

Advocate Samra Malik and another person filed the petitions pleading with the Pemra not to issue an ‘unconstitutional notification’, which violates the fundamental rights of the citizens and the media as well.

The petitioners claimed that the Pemra had been acting under political pressure of the government, which was already hostile to media’s rights as guaranteed under articles 19 & 19A of the Constitution.

They said Pemra committed gross illegality by not investigating and thoroughly examining the issue in accordance with the touchstone of the relevant laws.

Contemptuous material

Separately, the Press Information Department on Thursday warned media houses against carrying any material “constituting contempt of court”.

Referring to a Supreme Court order issued on May 17, the government said that all those who broadcast, re-broadcast and/or publish material constituting contempt of court may also be committing contempt, therefore, they shou­ld desist from doing so, failing which they may also be proceeded against for contempt of court.

Published in Dawn, May 24th, 2024

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