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Pemra given time to produce record in hate speech case

Top Story

July 7, 2017

ISLAMABAD: In a matter alleging blasphemy against certain citizens of Pakistan, calling them traitors, atheist etc. through a private channel, Islamabad High Court (IHC) has given time to Pemra for producing record on which basis the media regulator had imposed a ban on Amir Liaquat's programme.

Last date of hearing on May 31 IHC bench had directed Pemra to produce the record. Today's hearing Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) sought time to submit record that was granted and hearing was adjourned till after summer vacation.

Pemra through a notification dated January 26 had said that Pemra has prohibited the said anchor's programme with immediate effect under section 27 of pemra ordinance 2002. As per Pemra’s said notification it took the decision after receiving hundreds of complaints with regard to the hate speech being made in the programme.

Before that a lawyer Jibran Nasir had moved Pemra’s council of complaints (CoC) for Sindh alleging that the anchor has been running a defamatory and life threatening campaign against him. The lawyer maintained that the anchor hurled baseless allegations against him and even termed him an ‘atheist’ besides accusing him of running ‘anti-Pakistan’ and ‘anti-Islam’ agenda. The anchor, he said, levelled against him allegations of blasphemy along with accusing him of being the admin of ‘Bhensa’ page.

On February 28, IHC Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui suspended ban on the anchor and then pemra filed an appeal before the Supreme Court.  Supreme Court on March 6 conditionally allowed the anchor to continue with his programme that must be devoid of hate speech. The anchor had assured the apex court that he would not make a hate speech in future. Supreme Court then directed him to submit reply within three days time to the Pemra and directed media regulator to decide the matter in the light of the anchor's reply. 

It is to mention here that Pemra Council of Complaint (CoC) in its March 27 press release/order had declared that the anchor made hate speech in his programme. CoC had determined Contents aired on the private channel from January 2 to 24, 2017 during the programme to the extents of complainants, is in violation of section 20 of Pemra Ordinance 2002 as amended by Pemra (Amendment) Act 2007, read with rule 15 of Pemra rules 2009 and clauses 3(1-h,k), 4(7-C), 13(1)(2), 22(1)(3) and amounts to hate speech within the meaning of clause 3 of Electronic Media (Programmes and Advertisements) Code of Conduct 2015, notified by the federal government on the orders of the honorable Supreme Court of Pakistan”.

Pemra had also suggested penalties including fine and by name apology. The anchor and the channel then challenged Pemra's order. Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui of the IHC on March 31 suspended order of the Pemra’s Council of Complaints (CoC) to the extent of three counts, like the anchor was asked to apologize the individuals against whom he made hate speech, channel to ensure text scroll at TV screen and in case of failure to the compliance of CoC orders the anchor's programme to remain suspended till compliance of the orders.

The three other counts related to fine, submission of fresh affidavit and compliance of Pemra’s code of conduct.

Through March 31 order, IHC bench however directed the channel to deposit the fine amount of one million rupees that shall be subject to final adjudication of the matter. IHC bench had directed the channel to submit an affidavit to assure Pemra that in future it will not air any hate speech or contents in violation of the pemra’s code of conduct.

In May 26 proceedings of this case, Legal counsel for the petitioner Raja Rizwan Abbasi advocate had argued before the court that Pemra imposed a ban on the said programme due to 'hate speech' but there is no mention of hate material in Pemra's March 27 order. Legal counsel for pemra Ali Shah Gillani advocate had argued that Pemra has discretionary powers to initiate action against TV channels. Pemra's counsel expressed reservations about submission of record at which IHC bench expressed annoyance and said that Pemra should satisfy the court that on what basis the ban was imposed on the programme.