ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Tuesday restrained the Sindh High Court (SHC) from holding contempt proceedings against the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) chairman and directed the management of Bol TV to appear at the next hearing on February 6.
The directives were issued over an appeal filed by Pemra against an SHC order granting a stay to Labbaik Private Ltd – which operates Bol TV – over the media watchdog’s ban on anchor Amir Liaquat and his programme ‘Aisay Nahi Chalay Ga’ until its Council of Complaints takes a final decision.
SC sets aside contempt notice to Pemra, summons BOL news management
A three-member SC bench comprising Justice Amir Hani Muslim, Justice Mushir Alam and Justice Mazhar Alam Khan Miankhel took up Pemra’s appeal and passed a five-page order.
“We issue notice to the respondents … in the intervening period, restrained the high court from proceeding against the chairman, Pemra, or any other person on the contempt applications,” reads the apex court order.
Pemra says it received hundreds of complaints against Liaquat’s programme. Using powers granted under section 27 of the Pemra (Amendment) Act 2007, it prohibited Liaquat from hosting his programme. At the same time, it has forwarded complaints against the programme to the Council of Complaints. The decision to fix the ban’s duration has been left to the council comprising prominent media persons, academicians, lawyers and civil society members. The council will decide the matter within 40 days.
“It is not a blanket ban: the individual accused of hate speech can appear on any other TV channel or radio but can’t deliver hate speeches or incite violence until the council’s decision” a Pemra source said. According to the source, they were cautious this time since their previous experience shows that an anchor converts himself/herself into a guest/analyst and restart his/her hate speech under a new umbrella name. Pemra also has the power to take action without a show-cause notice to avoid harm to a citizen caused by hate speech or incitement to violence, the source said.
Meanwhile, Pemra Chairman Absar Alam in the 124th meeting of the Pemra briefed members of the authority about Pemra’s way forward regarding pursuance of case against Liaquat and his programme. “Pemra is determined to bring the matter to its logical end,” Pemra’s media wing quoted Alam as saying. He said there is no room for hate speech on any electronic media channel and the matter will be dealt with according to Pemra’s Code of Conduct 2015.
PEMRA bans Amir Liaquat over hate speech
The meeting was attended by Interior Secretary Arif Ahmed Khan, FBR Chairman Dr Mohammad Irshad, PTA Chairman Dr Ismail Shah, Punjab Member Nargis Nasir and K-P Member Shaheen Habibullah. The Pemra chairman briefed the authority members about the petition filed in the Supreme Court against the SHC order. The official statement said the authority noted that a case filed against the chairman in a police station of Karachi might have mala fide intentions and must be pursued in an effective manner.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 1st, 2017.
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