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Monday July 15, 2024

High courts moved against Pemra’s ban on court coverage

Similar petitions were also filed the high courts of Punjab and Sindh

By Asim Yasin & Awais Yousafzai
May 24, 2024
A view of the Pemra building in Islamabad. — Ministry of Information and Broadcasting/File
A view of the Pemra building in Islamabad. — Ministry of Information and Broadcasting/File

ISLAMABAD: Three separate petitions have been filed in Sindh, Lahore, and Islamabad high courts against Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority’s (Pemra) notification prohibiting TV channels from news of court proceedings.

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.

The petition filed by the court reporters’ association in the Islamabad High Court (IHC) said that through the notification, Pemra has imposed a blanket ban on the live reporting of statements in open court by the various actors of the justice system: judges, lawyers, parties, and witnesses.

“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.”

Last but not least, the notifications, which sound a death knell for the profession of courtroom journalism, have jeopardised the right to livelihood of the members of the petitioners’ organisations and amount to a violation of their rights under Article 18 of the Constitution, read the petition.

Similar petitions were also filed the high courts of Punjab and Sindh.

The Press Information Department of Ministry of Information had asked all TV channels broadcasting and publications to adhere to the decision of Supreme Court of Pakistan that stated, “That television channels and all those who broadcast, re-broadcast and/or publish material constituting contempt of court may also be committing contempt of court, therefore, they should desist from doing so, failing which they may also be processed against contempt of court.

The PID through a letter to Chairman, Pakistan Broadcasters Association (PBA), President All Pakistan Newspapers Society (APNS) and President, Council of Pakistan Newspaper Editors (CPNE) on Thursday with the reference order of the Supreme Court of Pakistan, dated -05-2024, in the Criminal Original Petition No.06 of 2024 and conveyed by Ministry of formation & Broadcasting, Islamabad through letter.

The PID stated that In light of the order of the Supreme Court of Pakistan, dated -05-2024 on the subject cited above, all TV channels broadcasting and publications are directed to adhere to the decision for strict compliance in letter and spirit.