IHC, LHC issue notices to Pemra on court reporting ban



The Lahore and Islamabad high courts on Friday issued notices to the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) after hearing petitions challenging its notifications prohibiting television channels from airing news of court proceedings and directing them to only report on written orders.

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.

The notice comes 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.

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.

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.

IHC also issues notice to Pemra                                                          

Meanwhile, the IHC also issued notice to Pemra and secretary information on the petition by the IHC Court Reporter’s Association challenging its decision.

PFUJ moved the IHC against Pemra’s decision with the petition filed by Vice Chairman Islamabad Bar Council Adil Aziz Qazi.

The hearing was conducted by IHC Chief Justice Aamer Farooq who also restrained Pemra from taking disciplinary action against TV channels.

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.

On the other hand, the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists’ (PFUJ) also moved the IHC against Pemra, requesting 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.