Chief Justice (CJP) Mian Saqib Nisar on Friday ordered a judicial inquiry into the alleged manhandling of journalists by Islamabad police a day earlier.
On World Press Freedom Day, which is observed on May 3, a group of journalists had marched towards Islamabad’s D-Chowk to protest restrictions placed on the media.
They were, however, stopped and allegedly manhandled by police posted in the area. After reports of the incident began circulating, the CJP took suo motu notice of the case.
Declaring that the authorities had no right to abuse their power, the CJP said that the journalists’ demonstration did not threaten the capital’s law and order situation.
Inspector General (IG) of Islamabad Sultan Taimuri — who appeared in court today — told the Supreme Court (SC) that the journalists were stopped from trying to enter the Red Zone, where demonstrations of any kind are prohibited under Section 144 of the Pakistan Penal code.
Justice Nisar reprimanded the IG for “cheating the law” by imposing Section 144 even though there was no threat to security.
“Section 144 cannot be imposed forever,” he claimed.
“Did the journalists have any stones? Did they break a plant pot?” the CJP asked, saying that it was “inappropriate to raise a hand against peaceful demonstrators and women”.
Justice Nisar further said that Section 144 was a “colonial law”.
One of the journalists who was leading the protest, claimed he had “verbally informed” the deputy commissioner that a group of journalists would march towards D-Chowk. He alleged that the police had stopped the proceedings before they reached D-Chowk.
Speaking to Dawn earlier, journalist Shaharyar Khan said that the deputy commissioner had been informed about the rally, but the police still tried to stop it at China Chowk.
“However, we kept moving as we had to get to Parliament House, but the police manhandled us at D-Chowk. We later went to the Supreme Court and informed the chief justice of the matter, who directed the district administration to submit a reply Friday morning,” he said.
Justice Nisar ordered Islamabad session judge Sohail Nasir to submit a report of the incident within 10 days.
Senate condemns media censorship
During a Senate session on Friday, Senator Raza Rabbani condemned restrictions on the publication of news reports and opinion pieces.
“Is there is a law that imposes restrictions on the publication of news and opinions?” he asked. “If there is one, the house must be informed about it. We should ask why these restrictions are being placed.”
He added that if there was a law that allowed censorship of news, it can be abolished.