March 6, 2023
By Rehan Piracha
Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf chairman Imran Khan on Monday challenged the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority’s ban on broadcasting his speeches while media and human rights organisations opposed the restriction on free speech.
On Sunday, the media regulator issued a directive to news channels not to broadcast speeches of the former prime minister Imran Khan. The PEMRA suspended canceled the licence of the ARY News channel for broadcasting Imran Khan’s speech in violation of its directive.
Imran Khan’s petition against the PEMRA ban was submitted by his counsels Muhammad Ahmad Pansota Ishtiaq Khan in the Lahore High Court. “The (PEMRA) Order has been challenged on the grounds of being disproportionate, illegal, arbitrary, and unconstitutional, Pansota said in a tweet. He said the petition would be taken up tomorrow (March 7).
In his petition, Imran Khan said the PEMRA’s notification was in violation of Article 10A of the Constitution, which allows for freedom of expression. The PEMRA slapped the ban on political grounds on the insistence of the federal government, he added. The petition stated that the Constitution guarantees the protection of the constitutional rights of every citizen, adding that the allegations made by PEMRA were baseless. The media regulator had no authority to ban the coverage of any person and its the order is a violation of the Islamabad High Court’s judgment, the petition stated.
HRCP calls for lifting ban
In a statement, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan deplored PEMRA’s decision to ban PTI chief lmran Khan’s live and recorded speeches on electronic media. “We have always opposed measures to curb voices in the past -whether under the previous government or earlier – and we continue to stand by our commitment to freedom of speech, irrespective of the person’s political opinion,” the HRCP said. The human rights organisation called for the lifting of the speech ban immediately.
AMEND, PFUJ slam PEMRA
The Association of Electronic Media Editors and News Directors (AMEND) rejected PEMRA’s ban on broadcasting Imran Khan’s speeches. It said the PEMRA’s ban is a violation of basic constitutional rights. According to AMEND, the PEMRA could not arm-twist news channels to ban broadcasting speeches of political leaders on the pretext of regulatory mechanism. It said the association had opposed any ban on freedom of expression.
Speaking to Voicepk.net, Afzal Butt, president of the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists, slammed the PEMRA’s cancellation of ARY News as a violation of the law governing the media regulator. According to PEMRA law, the media regulator has to issue notice to a news channel over any violation of its directives and the case is referred to the council of complaints, PFUJ President Afzal Butt said. “However, the PEMRA became a judge and an executioner when it immediately cancelled the licence of the ARY News without hours of its broadcasting speech of Imran Khan,” he added.
Regarding the PEMRA’s ban on Imran Khan speeches, Afzal Butt said the PFUJ and late veteran journalists Ziauddin Ahmed and IA Rehman had filed a petition in the Islamabad High Court regarding the PEMRA’s directives on banning the speeches of political leaders. “The PFUJ contended that the media regulator had no powers to restrict the constitutional right of any citizen for expressing his opinion,” he said. Unfortunately, the PTI government, headed by Imran Khan, had termed the petitioners as anti-state elements, the PFUJ president said.