IHC rejects TV channel’s plea to suspend PEMRA decision

Islamabad – The Islamabad High Court yesterday rejected the ARY Communications’ plea to suspended PEMRA’s decision to ban its prorgramme “Live With Dr Shahid Masood” for 45 days for allegedly casting aspersions on Chief Justice Sindh High Court.

A single bench of IHC comprising Justice Miangul Hassan Aurangzeb conducted hearing of the petition of the ARY Communications challenging the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority’s decision to ban its programme.

During the hearing, the PEMRA sought more time to submit reply while the IHC bench directed the authority to submit reply till Thursday (today).

The IHC bench further directed the PEMRA to provide a copy of its reply to the petitioner as well.

A team of ARY anchors comprising Dr Shahid Masood, Kashif Abbasi, Sami Ibrahim, Arif Hameed Bhatti and Sabir Shakir appeared before the court accompanying their lawyer advocate Faisal Hussain Chaudhry.

On the other hand, Director General Operations PERMA, Sardar Irfan Ashraf and Ali Gillani represented media regulator in the court.

Dr Shahid Masood informed the court that after closure of his programme, senior Indian journalist Barkha Dutt and some others telephoned him and said that he has been talking about the freedom of expression for Kashmiri people while his own voice has been subdued in his own country. He requested the court to enable him appearing on the television screen and he would not talk about the issue that caused closure of his programme.

The counsel for PEMRA pointed out in the court that ARY again televised the programme that has been facing closure. At this juncture, ARY’s Islamabad Bureau Chief Sabir Shakir said that the ban has been imposed on Dr Shahid Masood not on the programme.

Shakir requested the court to allow Dr Masood to conduct the programme as due to his unavailability the burden of said programme also shifted on his shoulders. The court however rejected the request and deferred hearing in this matter till August 22 for further proceedings.

According to PEMRA, a show-cause notice was issued on July 19 and the channel was given seven days to respond but the reply received on July 23 was “unprofessional” and no apology was tendered.

The counsel for ARY Advocate Faisal Hussain Chaudhry contended before the court that law requires thing to be done in particular manner, it has to be done else it would be illegal or void ab initio.

The ARY in its petition before the IHC adopted that the PEMRA did not hear its version and unilaterally imposed ban of 45 days. It further submitted that the respondents disregarded statement of the appellant without mentioning any lawful reason and failed to appraise the contentions raised therein whereas the stance adopted by the respondents, was considered appropriate without looking into its veracity and plausibility.

It added that the impugned order was passed without ascertaining the actual and factual position that is result of misreading and non-reading.

The petitioner stated that by stopping the prime time show for 45 days regulating authority has indirectly imposed fine to the petitioner and it will cause millions of rupees loss to the petitioner.

The counsel contended that Chairman PEMRA does not have privilege of suo motu action and any action could be initiated either on the complaint filed by a person or organisation from the public at large, he said.

He continued that moreover imposing a ban on television show does not come under the preview of the council of complaints.

Therefore, he prayed to the court to set aside PEMRA order declaring it unlawful and void.

The Nation