Convicts cannot be given media coverage: Firdous Awan

Published: July 26, 2019
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KARACHI: Convicted persons cannot be given media coverage according to the rules of the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra), Prime Minister’s Aide on Information Firdous Ashiq Awan has claimed.

PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz hasn’t been given enough time on mainstream television media since the emergence of the videogate scandal involving accountability court judge Arshad Malik. While her interview was taken off air shortly after it began, her rallies were often not covered at all.

In a Q&A session following a news conference in the federal capital, the special assistant to the PM was asked why members of opposition parties, Maryam in particular, was not being given coverage on news channels.

“The government has nothing to do with the media blackout of Maryam Nawaz,” she responded, adding that according to the Pemra rules the PML-N leader cannot be given airtime because she’s a convict who’s out on bail.”

A Pemra official, however, refuted her claim.

Speaking on the condition of anonymity, the official told The Express Tribune that the media regulatory body currently did not have any laws which restricted the media from covering convicted or under-trial individuals.

Awan was also questioned why former Tehreek-e-Insaf general secretary Jahangir Tareen, who was disqualified by the Supreme Court for life, was allowed media coverage.

“No comparison can be drawn between the cases of Maryam Nawaz and Jahangir Tareen,” she said, explaining that conviction and disqualification were two different things, and the media regulatory body rules did not prohibit media coverage for the latter.

Speaking to The Express Tribune, Supreme Court lawyer Zubair Ahmed Rajput concurred Awan’s point of view that the two cases were different as Tareen was disqualified by the apex court whereas Maryam was sentenced following trial proceedings.

Former judge and ex-president Supreme Court Bar Association Rasheed A Rizvi, meanwhile, said there was no provision in the Constitution that could restrict an individual whether, convicted or disqualified, from appearing on television.

“Freedom of speech is a fundamental right of every citizen… during the tenure of former dictator Ziaul Haq, statements of deposed premier Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, who was convicted, were published in newspapers,” he told Geo News on Thursday.

Earlier this month, Prime Minister Imran Khan during a federal cabinet meeting had remarked that TV channels should not be allowed to give airtime to any convicted person and decided to take up the matter with Pemra.

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