LHC seeks PEMRA, ECP’s replies on election survey ban

Justice Najafi expresses bewilderment over ban; summons officials concerned on January 9

Rana Yasif January 05, 2024
FILE: PHOTO of Lahore High Court


The Lahore High Court (LHC) sought replies on Friday from the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) and Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) by January 9 on a plea challenging the latter’s ban on airing election surveys on television channels.

Petitioner, journalist Muneer Ahmad Bajwa, filed the plea through advocate Mian Dawood. The plea seeks to set aside PEMRA’s notification through which the ban was imposed.

The petitioner also prayed to court to declare clause 12 of the Code of Conduct (COC) for National Media, issued by the ECP, ultra vires and unconstitutional.

As proceedings commenced, Justice Ali Baqar Najafi expressed bewilderment regarding the ban. Election surveys are conducted and discussed across the world, he said.

During the proceedings, Justice Najafi on summoning the ECP’s lawyer was informed that he was busy at another court regarding matters relating to nomination papers.

The court was requested to adjourn the case. At this, Justice Najafi adjourned the case till January 9.

Advocate Dawood told the court that this was the first time that such a ban had been imposed through the introduction of clause 12 of a media code of conduct. He said the ban needs to be strongly condemned, arguing that it was tantamount to depriving the public of their independent opinion.

The ECP first issued the code of conduct, and then wrote to PEMRA to restrain television channels from airing election surveys. Following the ECP’s directives, the media regulatory authority issued a notification banning all coverage of election surveys on television channels.

He contended to the court that “the freedom of press and speech was a fundamental right of the people of Pakistan, which cannot be curtailed or limited by state functionaries using any technical, non-technical, ambiguous, unambiguous or any other circulars, rules and even through law as interpreted in PLD 2016 SC 692. It is constitutional duty of the judiciary to enforce the fundamental rights whenever pointed out through public interest litigation”.

“Free and fair journalism was the core and heart of democracy, because the right to information is now being recognized as an inalienable right all over the world, most specifically of the citizens of Pakistan,” the petition maintains.

It further adds that, “The political parties have a legitimate right to run their campaigns through various channels, including social media. Restricting the ability of media outlets and influencers to engage in polling-related activities may inadvertently impede the free flow of information that is crucial for an informed electorate during an election period.”

The petitioner made the ECP and PEMRA respondents through their chairmen, and the federal government through secretary of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting.


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