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Friday June 14, 2024

Court reporting ban: IHC, LHC issue notices to Pemra

IHC Chief Justice Aamer Farooq bars Pemra from taking any disciplinary action against TV channels

By Awaid Yousafzai & Naveen Ali
May 24, 2024
A view of Pemras building in Islamabad. — X/@reportpemra
A view of Pemra's building in Islamabad. — X/@reportpemra

ISLAMABAD/LAHORE: The Islamabad and Lahore high court's Friday issued notices to the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) on on petitions challenging the electronic media watchdog's notifications barring television channels from airing news related to court proceedings and directing them to only report on written orders.

During the IHC hearing conducted by Chief Justice Aamer Farooq, the court barred Pemra from taking any disciplinary action against TV channels.

The court issued notice to the media watchdog and secretary information following the petition filed by the IHC Court Reporter's Association.

The court also issued a notice on the miscellaneous application to suspend the watchdog's notification.

The court adjourned the hearing on petition till May 28.

The notices come after the electronic media watchdog issued two notifications ordering TV channels to not run reporting of court proceedings and for reporters to only report courts' written orders' on May 21.

It should be noted that the proceedings of the petition in the LHC and IHC are not being reported following the Pemra ban.

Meanwhile, the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists' (PFUJ) also moved the IHC against Pemra's decision with their plea filed by Vice Chairman Islamabad Bar Council Adil Aziz Qazi.

In its petition challenging Pemra notification, PFUJ requested IHC to annul the media watchdog's notification banning reporting of judicial proceedings.

"Pemra should be restrained from issuing any notification or order against fundamental human rights," the plea read.

PFUJ maintained that Pemra violated the public's right to access information, while it also misinterpreted the SC judgment.

The plea also stated that Pemra's notification violated Article 19 and 19A of the Constitution while it is also against the spirit of PEMRA Ordinance 2002.

LHC asks Pemra to respond by May 29

The Lahore High Court (LHC), during the hearing of pleas conducted by Justice Abid Aziz Shaikh, also ordered the electronic media watchdog to respond to its notice on May 29.

One petition has been filed by Azhar Siddiq and the other was filed by Advocate Samra Malik.

Petitioners argued that Pemra's ban is in violation of Article 10-A, 19 and 19-A of the Constitution of Pakistan. One of the pleas also requested the court to reject the prosecutor's plea and declare it "inadmissible".

Article 10-A pertains to the right to fair trial, while 19 and 19-A relates to freedom of speech and right to information.

The petitioners mentioned Pemra and the federal government as parties in its pleas.

Petitions asked the LHC to declare the notification "null and void", seeking its suspension until a verdict is pronounced.

Another petitioner, Advocate Nadeem Sarwar, has also filed a plea, which has not yet been fixed for hearing.

The petitions, challenging the Pemra ban, were filed in Sindh, Lahore and Islamabad high courts as well as the Supreme Court.

Pemra ban

In a notification issued on May 21, the media watchdog 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.

“Further, TV Channels are directed to refrain from airing tickers/headlines with regard to court proceedings till the final order,” it added.

All satellite TV channel licensees were also directed to ensure strict compliance to the Pemra laws in line with the judgment of the Supreme Court “in Suo Moto Case No. 28 of 2018 (reported as 2019 PLD SC 1) in letter and spirit”.

The media watchdog also warned of legal action in case of any violation.