Journalists’ bodies move court against Pemra notification

ISLAMABAD   -   Journalists’ representative bodies including Islamabad High Court Journalists Association (IHCJA), Press Association of Supreme Court (PAS) and Courts Journalists Association Lahore have moved the High Courts in Islamabad and Lahore challenging the PEMRA’s notification about imposing a blanket ban on live reporting of court proceedings. The courts are scheduled to take up these petitions today.

It is to be mentioned here that the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) on Tuesday last had directed electronic media that no content including commentary, opinions, or suggestions about the potential fate of such sub judice matter which tends to prejudice the determination by a court, tribunal, etc. shall be aired. TV channels are also directed to refrain from airing tickers/headlines about the court proceedings till the final order in the case.

“The law PEMRA shared in the notification is about reporting sensitive matters correctly and carefully but they have put a blanket ban on reporting court proceedings, and asked to report only judgments and court orders,” remarked President PAS Mian Aqeel Afzal while talking to The Nation.

He further said, there’s an opinion that directives were ordered after recent alleged friction between Judiciary and the State. Media being a soft target is now facing the consequences, he further said adding, for the last few years all the political and constitutional crisis has been decided in courts and people have taken interest in proceedings since they want to know what’s happening in the apex courts.

President IHCJA Fiaz Mehmood said, “We’re taking these directives as fundamental rights violation of Pakistanis. Articles 19 and 19-A of the Constitution of Pakistan ensure freedom of speech and the right to information as fundamental rights of every citizen of Pakistan.”

He also said these directives are against the independence of the judiciary as well.

According to him, courts have the power to order such directives but PEMRA has illegally passed such directives. IHCJA along with PAS has filed a joint application at Islamabad High Court which is fixed for hearing on Friday.

Farieha Aziz, Journalist & Digital Rights Advocate, while talking to The Nation, said that the PEMRA notification has rightly been challenged by court reporters and press bodies. It is a blanket prohibition that infringes upon Article 19 and 19-A rights.

“Not only should court proceedings be reported on but analysis and commentary by court reporters on the proceedings is also a critical part of contextualizing a case which informs citizens about how a case is progressing and what the connected issues are which is in the public interest,” she further added.

She said, the notification censoring such information and views deprives citizens of their right to receive information, and form and express their own opinions in matters of public importance.

Muhammad Ashfaq, President, of the Courts Journalists Association, Lahore, while speaking to The Nation, said, the directives of PEMRA have pushed journalists against the wall. He said it’s a fundamental right of litigants those whose cases are pending in courts to know how the executive is doing injustice to them and what remarks have been given by the judges.

He questioned, will PEMRA decide now which contents from Lahore High Court will be aired or not? Only judges can decide if they want to keep proceedings in-camera. Ashfaq declared the notification as an intervention in judiciary and court proceedings.

“We’ve challenged the directions in Lahore High Court and we hope judges will set aside the directives until the application is not decided,” he said.

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