• IHC says media can report sub judice matters in responsible manner
• SCBA assails Pemra, suggests exercising restraint against media

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Wednesday issued show cause notices to 34 television channels, asking them to explain why contempt proceedings should not be initiated against them for airing the remarks of two lawmakers criticising the judiciary.

“Reporting, broadcasting and telecast of the press conference also constitute contempt and, therefore, show cause notices be issued to all the televisions channels which will be served through the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra).

The channels are required to submit explanation why proceedings should not be initiated against them for committing contempt of the court,“ said an order dictated by Chief Justice of Pakistan Qazi Faez Isa.

CJP Isa was heading a three-judge SC bench that had taken up the court-initiated contempt case against Senator Faisal Vawda and MNA Mustafa Kamal for their outburst against the judiciary at separate press conferences at the National Press Club (NPC) in Islamabad.

At the last hearing, the apex court had held that those who broadcast, rebroadcast or published material constituting contempt may also be committing contempt of the court.

The notices were issued when Attorney General for Pakistan (AGP) Mansoor Usman Awan contended that it was not a question of exercising judicial restraint in terms of the television channels since they should be mindful of the duty cast upon them under the constitutional command not to provide their platform to vent contemptuous assertions against the judiciary.

Pemra assailed

On the other hand, Supreme Court Bar Association President Shahzad Shaukat said any kind of attribution or assertion against the judiciary was not acceptable, but suggested exercising restraint against the media.

He also regretted that Pemra was trying to gag court reporting instead of blocking anti-judiciary comments by those who had no understanding of the law but were only trying to create unrest in society.

Represented through senior counsel Dr Farogh Nasim, MNA Mustafa Kamal of the MQM-P has already tendered an unconditional and unqualified apology for his utterances and stated that he had actually referred to pending Riba (usury) cases. His counsel also requested the Supreme Court to discharge notice against his client.

The SC order noted that Mr Kamal had thrown himself at the mercy of the court, seeking forgiveness.

Whereas Advocate Moiz Ahmed, representing Faisal Vawda, sought time to reflect upon the statement he filed before the court, saying if so instructed, he may file a fresh reply within a week.

During the hearing, the Supreme Court also took exception to Pemra’s notification restraining television channels from reporting court proceedings, and regretted that on the one hand contemptuous press conferences were allowed to be broadcast with impunity and, on the other, court reporting was being banned.

Pemra should not create hurdles in the way of court proceedings, otherwise ‘something more’ would happen, the CJP observed.

Justice Irfan Sadaat Khan regretted that Faisal Vawda’s press conference was person-specific, targeting two superior court judges.

Though the court did not write anything in the order, it suggested that Mustafa Kamal hold a press conference to express repentance for uttering contemptuous comments against the judiciary.

The Supreme Court will resume the contempt proceedings again on June 28.

Sub judice matter

Islamabad High Court Chief Jus­tice Aamer Farooq on Wednes­day observed that the media can report the sub judice matter in a responsible manner and sought final arguments on the petitions filed against the ban on the court reporting.

The petitions were filed by the Islamabad High Court Journalists Association and others challenging the Pemra notification that banned the coverage of sub judice matters.

During the hearing, Justice Farooq remarked that the media could report a sub judice matter with responsibility and the regulator could issue an advisory against the irresponsible reporting.

Pemra’s legal counsel submitted a reply to the petitions.

Justice Farooq inquired from Additional Attorney General Barrister Munawar Iqbal Duggal if the matter in hand relates to the federal government.

The AAG replied that the notification was issued by Pemra and the federal government had nothing to do with it.

Counsel for the petitioners Barrister Umar Ijaz Gillani contended that Pemra misinterpreted the relevant rules and SC judgement to impose a blanket ban on coverage of pending cases.

The hearing was adjourned till June 11.

Published in Dawn, June 6th, 2024

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