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Ramazan bar on media: IHC reserves judgment on PBA petition


May 18, 2018

ISLAMABAD: A division bench of the Islamabad High Court (IHC) here on Thursday reserved judgment in an Intra Court Appeal (ICA) of Pakistan Broadcasters Association (PBA) challenging a May 9 IHC single bench order that had barred private channels from airing game shows like ‘Neelam Ghar’ and also directed that in the holy month of Ramazan, no programme violating guidelines of Pemra shall be aired.

PBA and a private TV channel while citing ministry of interior, Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) challenged the judgment of Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui.

IHC division bench comprising Justice Aamer Farooq and Justice Mohsin Akhtar Kayani after hearing arguments from the petitioner and respondent sides reserved judgment in the ICA.

Advocate Waqas Malik, on whose petition May 9 judgment was issued and who is respondent in the ICA, briefed the division bench about the whole matter and said that he after observing indecency in the TV channels had initially filed a petition against Pemra. TV channels air such programmes in Ramazan that are not in accordance with the family values and Islamic teachings.

Morning shows are more obscene, advocate Malik said. He added that if TV channels may air five times Azan in the 10% dedicated public welfare air time, it would create good image. Another counsel, Inamul Rahiem advocate, argued before the court that the single judge has made no illegal decision in this matter and he has just asked Pemra to implement the guidelines it issues for Ramzan transmission. A law officer for Pemra submitted guidelines and told that they have been issued to the TV channels since 2016.

Legal counsel for PBA, Barrister Ali Zafar argued before the court his client is aggrieved by the single bench order who has imposed a complete ban on certain programs like “Neelam Ghar” and issued various directions to the channels on what to show and what not to show as well as the timings of the programmes. Single judge has also formed a censor board to view programmes and a committee to oversee the workings of Pemra.

Barrister Zafar said that the May 9 judgment has also banned entertainment programmes before 9 pm during the month of Ramazan on the assumption that entertainment programmes are immoral and indecent. He argued that the single judge has no jurisdiction under the Constitution and the law to pass such directions. Under Article 19, ‘Freedom of speech and expression’ and ‘freedom of press’ are fundamental rights guaranteed to the people and only the Parliament can impose reasonable restrictions on these rights only through laws.

Barrister Zafar said that the judgment is wholly illegal and void as no court could impose its version of indecency and morality on the public. Justice Siddiqui in his May 9 judgment had said ‘no programme suggestive of containing lottery and gambling, even apparently for noble purpose like Hajj/Umra tickets etc. shall be promoted to air either live or recorded. Programmes like Neelam Ghar and those appear to be like circus show must be stopped".

Meanwhile, an IHC single bench comprising Justice Miangul Hassan Aurangzeb allowed the petition of former PPP-P Federal Minister for Religious Affairs Hamid Saeed Kazmi seeking to unfreeze his bank accounts and properties. IHC bench has directed the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) to unfreeze the bank accounts and properties of Kazmi.

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