Abuse can’t be allowed in name of freedom of expression: LHC | Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Pakistan Press Foundation

Abuse can’t be allowed in name of freedom of expression: LHC

Pakistan Press Foundation

LAHORE: The Lahore High Court (LHC) on Monday remarked that no one could be allowed to abuse anyone in the name of freedom of expression or fundamental rights.

Justice Khalid Mehmood Khan made these remarks while hearing a petition against the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) to stop a private TV channel from broadcasting defamatory programmes against the Jang/Geo Group and its owners, and for not initiating action against the said private channel.

The judge remarked that scandalising judges was a serious issue and the court would look into it.Owners of the Independent Newspapers Corporation (Pvt) Limited and Independent Media Corporation (Pvt) Limited have moved the petition through senior lawyer AK Dogar.

On Monday, AK Dogar submitted two miscellaneous applications: one for placing on record transcript of the broadcast of anti-judiciary programmes and the other seeking order against Pemra to restrain the private channel from vilification campaign against Jang/Geo Group.

The counsel contended that the respondents had been indulging in a character-assassination campaign against the petitioners for a few months. In addition to this, the petition added, additional sessions judge (Karachi South) had issued arrest warrants against the anchor of the programme on September 7, 2013 in a similar plea, but the anchor did not appear before the court deliberately.

Mr Dogar pointed out that a case of declaration with permanent injunction was pending against the respondents in the Islamabad High Court (IHC).Though the matter was sub judice in various courts, the baseless tirade against the petitioners continued.

On this, the petitioner also filed another civil suit against the respondents in the IHC, which is pending. The baseless propaganda has been going on for the last two months, involving the directors, employees and all other people associated with the group, aiming at damaging the goodwill of the petitioner.

The petitioner said Section 20 of the Pemra Ordinance 2002 bars broadcast of defamatory material. Therefore, it was the responsibility of Pemra to ensure that none of its licence holders broadcast any such material, but it did not stop the defamatory broadcast by the respondent TV channel and failed to act against it.

The petitioner further argued Pemra failed to take any appropriate action against the violators thus far. The petitioners filed an application with Pemra through its counsel on Nov 29, 2013, requesting it to ensure implementation of Pemra Ordinance 2002 in letter and spirit and direct the respondents to refrain from defaming the petitioners and the employees of the media house.

But Pemra did not fulfil its legal responsibility, which draws serious apprehensions as if Pemra is not interested in restraining the respondents from defaming the plaintiff and their employees.

So the complainants had to move the court for help for putting an end to this onslaught. The petition sought the court’s immediate intervention for stopping the private TV channel from defamatory broadcast against the petitioners, their directors and others concerned.

The petitioner further requested the court to advise Pemra to suspend or cancel the licence of the respondent if it persisted with its baseless propaganda. The petitioners’ counsel also requested the court to pass instructions to the respondent not to broadcast any defamatory programme.

Ch Aitzaz Ahsan appeared on behalf of the respondent and submitted that the court lacked jurisdiction to adjudicate upon petitions of defamatory nature as district courts had the exclusive jurisdiction to hear them under the relevant law.The court issued notices to Pemra on miscellaneous application and ordered that both applications will be heard along with main petition on January 16.

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