ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court issued a detailed order a petition of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan, setting aside the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) ban on his live coverage.

The media regulatory body had imposed a blanket ban on live coverage of Mr Khan’s speeches on August 20, after he allegedly threatened Additional District and Sessions Judge (ADSJ) Zeba Chaudhry, and the Islamabad Police IG and DIG, of ‘consequences’ after the judge handed over physical custody of the ex-PM’s aide, Shahbaz Gill, to police for two days.

IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah issued the detailed order on the petition filed by Mr Khan against the ban on his live coverage on electronic media.

Setting aside the Pemra notification, the IHC asked the media regulatory body to enforce its Code of Conduct in the light of Supreme Court’s judgement to ensure effective enforcement of its directions. The apex court had previously directed Pemra to devise a standard operating procedure for live coverage, in pursuant to which the electronic media had introduced a time-delay mechanism.

In his petition, the PTI chairman contended that under the Pemra Ordinance, one-third of the total members of the watchdog were supposed to constitute a quorum for the meetings requiring a decision by the authority, which comprised a chairman and 12 members.

Arguing before the court at a previous hearing, Mr Khan’s counsel Barrister Syed Ali Zafar pointed out that Pemra invoked sections 26 and 27 to impose a ban on live coverage of the PTI chairman. He said these sections could not be invoked to ban the speeches of a political leader since they empowered the regulator to ensure broadcast of suitable contents. Even otherwise, since Section 26 entailed penal consequences, the regulator was under an obligation to serve a prior notice to Mr Khan before banning his live coverage.

The IHC had disposed of the petition on Monday after hearing both sides.

Published in Dawn, September 7th, 2022

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