SHC suspends PEMRA's court reporting ban till June 6

High court issues notices to media regulatory authority, ministry of information; asks reporters to act 'responsibly'

Our Correspondent May 27, 2024
The Sindh High Court building. PHOTO: FILE


The Sindh High Court (SHC) suspended on Monday the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority's (PEMRA) ban restricting reporters from broadcasting tickers of court proceedings.

The petition was filed by Karachi's court reporters earlier in the day, against the media watchdog's notification issued on May 21. It was accepted for an urgent hearing by SHC Chief Justice Aqeel Abbasi.

Justice Abbasi however emphasized, "Court reporters must exercise responsibility when covering judicial matters. "Reporting certain remarks and observations can sometimes misrepresent the judiciary," he added.

The notification was also challenged in the high courts of Lahore and Islamabad last week.

The court has issued notices and sought a response by June 6 from PEMRA and the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MOIB).

The petition prayed that the ban on court reporting was imposed without convening a meeting of the authorities, nor were the court reporters heard.

The reporters contended that the ban infringes on several constitutional rights, including articles 8, 9, 10, 18, 19, and 25.

Read LHC directs PEMRA to ensure freedom of speech

Article 8 ensures the protection of fundamental rights; Article 9 guarantees the security of a person, asserting that no person shall be deprived of life or liberty save per law; Article 10 provides safeguards regarding arrest and detention as well as Article 18, which ensures the freedom of trade, business, or profession, allowing every citizen the right to engage in any lawful profession or occupation; Article 19 guarantees freedom of speech and expression; whereas Article 25 guarantees the equality of all citizens before the law and prohibits discrimination.

According to law experts, the purpose of the notification is to ban the airing of judges' remarks on TV channels. Usually, PEMRA avoids issuing such guidelines without the approval of the superior judiciary. It is an open secret that a clash continues between the judiciary and the security establishment, with PEMRA choosing its side.

Lawyers have urged the Supreme Court (SC) to have PEMRA explain what law it has used to ban the reporting of court proceedings on TV channels.

On May 25, the IHC and LHC separately addressed challenges to the notification.

At the LHC, Justice Abid Aziz Sheikh considered the petition submitted by Samara Malik. The court issued notices to relevant parties, including the attorney general, for a hearing on May 29. However, the judge declined to issue a stay order against the May 19 notification.

IHC Chief Justice Aamer Farooq heard related petitions and called for responses from Pemra and the information secretary by May 28. These petitions were filed by the IHC Journalists Association and the Press Association of the Supreme Court.


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