IHC Restrains Pemra Action, Issues Notices Over Court Reporting Curb Petitions | Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Pakistan Press Foundation

IHC Restrains Pemra Action, Issues Notices Over Court Reporting Curb Petitions

Pakistan Press Foundation

On May 24, the Islamabad High Court (IHC) and the Lahore High Court (LHC) separately addressed petitions challenging a notification by the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) that restricts reporting of court proceedings on television. Both courts issued notices to relevant parties, including Pemra and the information secretary, seeking responses to petitions arguing the restrictions violate constitutional rights to freedom of speech and information.

The IHC heard petitions filed by the IHC Journalists Association and the Press Association of the Supreme Court, while the LHC heard a separate petition submitted by Advocate Samara Malik.

The Pemra notification, issued on May 19, prohibits television channels from airing tickers or headlines related to ongoing court cases and limits reporting to written court orders.

Petitioners argued that the restrictions are overly broad and infringe upon the public’s right to be informed about judicial proceedings. They contended that Pemra lacks the authority to impose such limitations and that the notification misinterprets a Supreme Court judgment.

IHC Chief Justice Aamer Farooq, in his written order, noted that the petitioners’ counsel argued the notification violates Articles 19 and 19A of the Constitution, which guarantee freedom of speech and the right to information.

After a preliminary hearing, Justice Farooq issued notice to PEMRA. While the counsel sought a suspension of the notification, the Chief Justice provided interim relief to the television channels. The interim order stated: “No coercive measures shall be taken against any TV channel, provided that the notification is adhered to and followed in both letter and spirit.”

In the LHC, Justice Abid Aziz Sheikh observed that the questions raised in the petitions were important, requiring determination by interpreting various articles of the Constitution and provisions of the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority Ordinance 2002 and the code of conduct of the regulator. He issued notices to the respondents, asking them to submit replies by May 29, and also asked the attorney general to assist the court in the matter.

Pemra’s counsel argued against the maintainability of the petitions, contending that a remedy of appeal was available under the 2002 ordinance and that the LHC did not have jurisdiction since the IHC had already issued notices. However, the petitioners’ counsel responded that Pemra was a federal agency and the LHC had concurrent jurisdiction to adjudicate the matter.

Both courts have scheduled further hearings to deliberate on the matter. The IHC will hear the case again on May 28, while the LHC has set a hearing for May 29.

The restrictions have drawn criticism from media organizations and bodies. Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF) rejected the “blanket ban” and called it an “unacceptable overreach” that would “leave a gaping hole in reporting from courts.”

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