The Lahore High Court (LHC) on Thursday suspended the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra)’s ban on the broadcast of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan’s speeches and press conferences.
Announcing the judgment, Justice Shams Mehmood Mirza forwarded the case to a full bench for further hearing and adjourned proceedings until March 13. PEMRA had banned the live and recorded broadcast of Khan’s speeches and press conferences on Sunday, saying he 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.” Warning that any channel that did not comply with the order could have its operating license suspended, the regulator had also directed all satellite TV channels to constitute an “impartial editorial board” so their platforms could not be used 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.”
Shortly after the ban was imposed, the PTI had approached the LHC to get the order vacated, arguing that the PEMRA directive was driven by “vengeance.” During today’s hearing, the judge remarked that a ban on the broadcast of the speeches and press conferences of the head of a political party violated freedom of speech. However, both the PEMRA’s counsel and the government’s lawyer had argued for the matter to be heard by a full bench, stressing it was beyond the LHC’s jurisdiction. Justice Mirza had then reserved his verdict on the plea before announcing it later in the day.
According to the petition filed by Khan, the Islamabad High Court (IHC) had set aside a similar ban on the broadcast of Khan’s speeches last year. It had argued that the PEMRA ban violated the fundamental rights guaranteed under Articles 19 and 19-A of the Constitution, adding that the regulator was not empowered to issue any blanket ban. The petition had also argued that the meeting that had decided on the ban had lacked quorum and its orders were not legally binding.