Pemrafs action challenged
TERENCE J SIGAMONY
ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) has been urged to decide whether a convict, proclaimed offender or absconder can be denied the right to express or the public-at-large be denied the right to receive as information the views and words expressed by that person.
Days after the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) supreme leader and former prime minister, Nawaz Shariffs fiery speeches from London, the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) on October 1st, 2020 banned the broadcast and rebroadcast of any speech, interview or public address of absconders or proclaimed offenders.
The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists, Chairman Pakistan Bar Council, eminent human and civil rights activists and senior journalists on Wednesday fielded a petition under Article 199 in the IHC with the prayer that the PEMRA Prohibition Order 01-10-2020 and directive dated 27-05-2019 may be declared to be without lawful authority, of no legal effect, and void ab-initio.
They have cited the secretary Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, the PEMRA, and the DG (Operations) PEMRA as respondents.
The petitioner prayed before the IHC that the respondents be permanently restrained from directing and imposing prior prohibition with respect to expression or speech by a person.
The also prayed that during the pendency of the instant petition the operation of the Prohibition Order 01-10-2020 and directive dated 27-05-2019 be suspended.
They submitted that the PEMRA orders were unconstitutional and illegal prohibitions had been imposed on the electronic media with respect of dissemination of information.
gThe prohibition is a constitutional wrong in the own right and amounts to nullifying the rights made available under Article 19-A of Constitution.h
They raised question that gcan the State, or any agency or authority obstruct access to information by the public-at-large or the dissemination of such information by the petitioners as journalists and human rights defenders or by the electronic and print media in general?h
gDo the words spoken and the views expressed by a convict, a proclaimed offender or an absconder fall outside the ambit of the einformationf envisaged by Article 19A of Constitution? Can a convict, proclaimed offender or absconder be denied the right to express or the public-at-large be denied the right to receive as information the views and words expressed by the convict, proclaimed offender or absconder by way of information?
gThe PEMRA has assumed the role of a censoring agency that seeks to curb cultural as well as political expression and speech, thereby denying to the citizens of Pakistan the fundamental rights of information, free speech, and a free press guaranteed by the Constitution.