No ban on Imran’s speeches, PEMRA tells LHC

Court dismisses PTI plea challenging ECP decision to revoke electoral bat symbol

Our Corresondent January 04, 2024
PTI chief Imran Khan is addressing his supporters from inside his car in Lahore on Monday, March 13, 2023. SCREENGRAB


The Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) on Thursday informed the Lahore High Court (LHC) that there was no ban on the broadcast of former prime minister Imran Khan’s speeches.

Pemra's counsel Haroon Duggal said this during the hearing of a petition filed by the founder of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) last year against Pemra’s decision to bar all TV channels from airing Imran's speeches and news conferences. The hearing was presided over by Justice Shams Mehmood Mirza.

After the hearing, Justice Mirza directed the media regulatory body not to pressure TV channels into barring the broadcast of Imran’s speeches. On March 5, 2023, the regulatory body imposed a blanket ban on broadcasting live or recorded speeches of the former premier on all satellite TV channels.

Read LHC directs PEMRA to ensure freedom of speech

“It has been observed that Mr Imran Khan, Chairman Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, in his speeches/statements is continuously ... levelling baseless allegations and spreading hate speech through his provocative statements against state institutions and officers which is prejudicial to the maintenance of law and order and is likely to disturb public peace and tranquillity,” the order issued by the media regulatory authority read.

The next day, the former PTI chairman filed a petition in the LHC challenging Pemra’s prohibition order. The petition, filed through barrister Muhammed Ahmed Pansota, had contended that in the judgment reported as “Imran Ahmad Khan Niazi Vs Pemra”, then Chief Justice of the Islamabad High Court (IHC) Athar Minallah had declared a similar Pemra prohibition order as “ultra vires the Ordinance” (over-stretching itself beyond the powers conferred upon it) on similar grounds.

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Imran’s counsel had stated in the petition that Pemra had issued the impugned order beyond their jurisdiction and without having regard to the constitutional rights guaranteed under articles 19 and 19-A of the Constitution. On March 9, 2023, Justice Mirza, presiding over the hearing, suspended the ban imposed by the media regulatory authority.

It should be noted that Pemra had also imposed a prohibition order against airing Imran’s live or recorded speeches on Aug 21, 2022, after the PTI chief had warned Islamabad inspector general of police (IGP) and deputy inspector general of police (DIG) in which he had said that he would not spare them and would register a case against them for “torturing” party leader Shahbaz Gill during his physical remand.

He had also called out Additional District and Sessions Judge Zeba Chaudhry for approving the police request of physical remand despite knowing that Gill was subjected to “torture”. “We will not leave you [Zeba] and will also file a case.” Separately, the LHC dismissed the PTI plea challenging the Election Commission of Pakistan’s (ECP) decision to revoke the party’s popular electoral symbol, the ‘cricket bat’.

Read  PTI to knock at SC doors to reclaim ‘Bat’

Announcing the decision reserved a day earlier, Justice Jawad Hasan declared the petition non-maintainable. Justice Jawad observed that the Peshawar High Court (PHC), through its order, passed in a writ petition, dated Dec 26, 2023, has already taken up the same matter and suspended the ECP’s decision. The order maintained that the matter was still pending adjudication there.

“In these circumstances, agitating the same matter before two parallel forums may result in conflicting opinions thereby undermining the judicial process, besides resulting in multiplicity of litigation that may result in delaying the elections,” the LHC’s order stated.


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