Published On: Fri, Mar 10th, 2023
Published in Category: Lahore

LHC Justice Shams Mehmood Mirza suspends PEMRA’s ban on live telecast of Imran Khan’s speeches

Share This

LAHORE/QUETTA: The Lahore High Court (LHC) on Thursday suspended the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority’s (PEMRA) orders to ban the live telecast of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Chairman and former prime minister Imran Khan’s speeches and press talks.

Justice Shams Mehmood Mirza announced the judgment. He also sent the matter to the full bench for hearing and adjourned the proceedings till March 13.

On Sunday, the media regulator had slapped a ban on Imran Khan’s speeches and press talks with “immediate effect” after he had lashed out at former army chief Qamar Javed Bajwa for what he called “protecting incumbent rulers in their alleged corruption cases”.

Subsequently, the PTI chief approached the court. He argued that PEMRA’s order was “purely driven out of vengeance”.

As the LHC took up the petition today, Justice Mirza asked how such a ban could be imposed on the head of a political party. “This is against freedom of speech,” he remarked.

However, PEMRA’s counsel argued that the matter should be heard by a full bench. “I request the court that this is not its jurisdiction,” the government lawyer also said.

On the other hand, Imran Khan’s counsel Barrister Muhammad Ahmad Pansota contended that PEMRA’s ban on the former prime minister’s speeches and live talks was a violation of fundamental rights enshrined under the Constitution. He also requested that the court should set aside the authority’s order. Subsequently, the court reserved its verdict on Imran’s plea.

In the petition, Imran named PEMRA and the authority’s director (operations, broadcast media) as respondents.

The plea pointed out that the Islamabad High Court (IHC) had set aside a similar prohibition order in the past.

The petition said that PEMRA had issued the order “in excess of the jurisdiction vested in it and without having regard to the constitutional rights guaranteed under Articles 19 and 19-A of the Constitution”. It further contended that the authority was not empowered to issue a blanket prohibition order, which appears to be “in violation of the principle of proportionality”.

The plea argued that according to Section 8 of the PEMRA Ordinance, one-third of the total number of members were required to constitute quorum for meetings. But the meeting which passed the order against Imran comprised only the chairman and three members which made the order “coram-non-judice”.

It said that PEMRA’s order was “illegal, unlawful, more than its jurisdiction, and contrary to the fundamental rights as enshrined under the Constitution” and liable to be set aside.

“The Impugned Order in effect has prohibited all news channels from airing live speeches of Imran khan based on spreading hate speech and making provocative statements against state institutions and officers. It is submitted that no hate speech or any such statements were made against the state institutions during his speech which entails such penal consequences as notified in the impugned order,” the petition said, arguing that the ban was in violation of Article 19 of the Constitution and the PEMRA Ordinance, 2002.

The petition said that Imran’s speech in question had been “incorrectly labelled as hate speech” and his words were in no way “prejudicial to the maintenance of law and order”. It contended that PEMRA was taking the statement “out of the context and political backdrop in which it was made in order to create censorship and inhibit the ‘freedom of speech’.”

It further said that the move to ban Imran’s speeches was an “arbitrary and malafide use” of PEMRA’S powers to “stifle discussion regarding the torture and brutality being carried out against Shahbaz Gill and keep the public at large unaware of the developments in the case and essentially, thwart justice”.

It said that the order was “purely driven out of vengeance” and the respondents invoked criminal proceedings “just to illegally harass the appellants and stop them from pursuing their political activities”.

In the prohibition order issued on Sunday, PEMRA referred to previous directives wherein all licencees were directed to “refrain from telecasting any content against state institutions”.

The authority noted that Imran Khan, in his speeches and statements, was “leveling 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 tranquility.”

PEMRA said that licencees telecasted the content without the effective utilisation of the time delay mechanism, in violation of the authority’s laws and judgments by the apex court.

“… therefore, the competent authority i.e. chairman PEMRA in view of the above mentioned background and reasons, in exercise of delegated powers of the authority vested in Section 27(a) of the PEMRA Ordinance 2002 as amended by PEMRA (Amendment) Act 2007, hereby prohibits broadcast/rebroadcast of speech(s)/press talks (recorded or live) of Imran Khan on all satellite TV channels with immediate effect,” the order said.

The authority also directed all satellite TV channels to ensure that an “impartial editorial board” is constituted to ensure that their platforms is not used by anyone for “uttering remarks in any manner which are contemptuous and against any state institution and hateful, prejudicial to law and order situation in the country”.

In case of non-compliance, the licence will be suspended under Section 30 of the PEMRA Ordinance, 2002 without any show cause notice in public interest, the order said.

Meanwhile a local court in Quetta on Thursday issued a non-bailable arrest warrant for Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan in the case registered against him under multiple sections of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) and the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act, 2016 (PECA).

The judicial magistrate issued the arrest warrant and directed authorities to present the former prime minister in court.

A first information report (FIR) was registered at a police station in Quetta against Khan for the comments he made against state institutions and their officers during a speech on Sunday.

Complainant Abdul Khalil Kakar had registered the complaint at the Bijli Road Police Station against the PTI chief. The FIR included Sections 153A, 124A, and 505 of the PPC and Section 20 of the PECA.

Kakar had alleged that the PTI chief’s statement was an attempt to destroy public peace and order.

In a speech on Sunday, the PTI chief had come down hard on the “state institutions” after a team of Islamabad police had arrived at his Zaman Park residence to arrest him in the Toshakhana case.

The deposed prime minister — who was ousted from power in April last year — vented his rage while addressing party workers and supporters at Zaman Park residence in Lahore who participated in the “Jail Bharo Tehreek” (voluntary arrest movement).

In his fiery speech, the PTI chairman said that he had neither kneeled before any institution or person nor would let the nation do so.

Khan said it does not matter if the government places his name on the exit control list (ECL) as he has no intention of leaving the country.

Taking a dig at the leadership of the ruling Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) alliance, he said that their legs start shaking if their “names are put on the no-fly list”.

Berating the former army chief, Khan alleged that Gen (retd) Qamar Javed Bajwa imposed a group of criminals on the country through a conspiracy.

Addressing his party workers and supporters, the former prime minister said that there is no security risk, adding that “they” wanted to “remove” (assassinate) him from the path.

The deposed prime minister said that he was being dragged into the courts in fake cases.