MQM seeks contempt proceedings against media
LAHORE: Legal counsel for MQM on Friday urged the Lahore High Court to issue contempt notices to news channels and newspapers for violating the court’s ban by airing and publishing news about the party’s chief.
Advocate Asma Jahangir, the party’s counsel, during hearing of several identical petitions against the MQM chief repeatedly asked a full bench to issue notices to the media houses for defying the ban imposed by the court on coverage of all activities of the leader.
The bench headed by Justice Syed Mazahar Ali Akbar Naqvi comprised Justice Mazhar Iqbal Sidhu and Justice Erum Sajjad Gull.
Abdullah Malik, Advocate Aftab Virk, Advocate Fayaz Mehar and others filed the petitions seeking ban on media coverage of the MQM chief’s speeches in wake of his statements against state institutions, including army, rangers and others. MQM had become party to the case and contested the ban imposed by the court.
Interestingly, it was the case of petitioners’ side that Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) had failed to implement the ban as the Oct 5 news of money laundering case in London against the MQM chief was widely flashed by the media.
When asked about action taken against the news channels, acting chairman of Pemra told the bench that show-cause notices had already been issued to all media houses concerned for violating the court’s order with regard to media blackout of the MQM chief. He said the media houses had been asked to submit explanation within two weeks.
At this, Ms Jahangir insisted that the bench should take notice of the violation and issue contempt notices to media organizations. However, Justice Naqvi rejected her suggestion and said there was no need to issue such notices at this stage.
Petitioner’s counsel Advocate Siddique said he was not against any particular media house but wanted Pemra to perform its role of regulator efficiently.
He also pointed out that Pemra in show-cause notices admitted that media organisations committed contempt but it gave them time for explanation instead of taking prompt action. He said the Pemra was not serious in taking action against the media houses.
At one point, MQM’s counsel said the petitioners were politicizing the case. Justice Naqvi, however, observed that the case could be politicized for anyone but not for the court.
Ms Jahangir informed the bench that a petition against the LHC’s ban was pending adjudication before the Supreme Court and would be taken up again in first week of November. At this the bench adjourned hearing of the petitions till Nov 11 and directed the Pemra to submit details of the actions, other than the show-cause notices, taken against the news channels for violating the ban. The bench turned down a request for exempting the acting chairman of Pemra from personal appearance on future hearings.
The bench also directed a federal government’s counsel to come up with a clear reply about the status of the MQM chief’s nationality.