Petitions filed in high courts against Pemra’s move to ban court coverage

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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.

“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.

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.