SC directs high court to settle PBA plea by June 5

The Supreme Court on Thursday heard appeals filed by the Pakistan Broadcasters Association (PBA) against the directives issued by Pemra regarding dramas, morning shows, advertisements and Ramazan transmissions.

IHC Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui had, through an order on March 17, appointed a committee comprising the secretary Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, chairman and DG Technical Pemra, Additional Attorney General Afnan Karim Kundi and journalist Ansar Abbas to submit a report on the contents of TV shows, dramas and advertisements.

PBA counsel Barrister Syed Ali Zafar argued that the directions had been issued as a result of various orders passed by the high court. He contended that the high court does not have jurisdiction, under Article 199 of the Constitution, to act as a regulator of broadcast media content; and under the Pemra Ordinance 2002, it is only Pemra which has been designated as the regulator.

The counsel pointed out that under the Pemra Ordinance, the high court is the appellate authority and if a judge starts acting as the regulator then the provision of appeal provided in the law is totally negated.

He further submitted that a judge may have personal views about the culture and may even be against entertainment or may have his own religious views, but he is to leave all such personal opinions at home when he adorns the gown of a judge and sits in court.

While acting as a high court judge, no one can impose his views on what content is to be broadcast and when and how the media should air its shows, said Barrister Zafar and pointed out that a Code of Conduct 2015 had been voluntarily agreed upon between Pemra and the PBA, under the auspices of the apex court.

He contended that Pemra had breached the Code of Conduct 2015 and issued regulations to control and censor the media in contravention of fundamental rights guaranteed in the Constitution, particularly under Articles 19 and 19A.

The two-member bench then asked if anyone was present from the side of the respondents and called Pemra Chairman Absar Alam, who claimed that he was coincidentally present there.

The Supreme Court, after hearing the parties, decided that there are genuine grievances put forth by the PBA, and directed the high court to decide the grievances on Monday, June 5. The court also directed Pemra that until such time, no adverse action shall be taken against the TV channels.