Courts Rebuke Pemra For Muzzling Media Coverage

## High Courts Challenge Pemra’s Ban on Court Coverage

### Legal Challenge to Pemra’s Notification

The Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) has faced legal challenges in Sindh, Lahore, and Islamabad high courts over its notification prohibiting TV channels from reporting on court proceedings. The petitions argue that Pemra’s ban violates the public’s right to access information, journalists’ freedom of speech, and litigants’ right to a fair trial.

### Background of the Ban

Pemra’s notification, issued on May 21, 2024, directed all satellite news channel licensees to refrain from airing content that could prejudice the determination of ongoing court cases. The media watchdog cited the Supreme Court’s ruling that stated that broadcasting contempt of court material could also constitute contempt of court.

### Key Arguments in Petitions

The petitions filed by the court reporters’ association in the Islamabad High Court (IHC) and similar petitions in the Punjab and Sindh high courts argue that Pemra’s ban:

– Infringes on the independence of the judiciary by imposing a blackout on court proceedings without consulting the judiciary.
– Violates the public’s right to access information regarding court cases and judicial proceedings.
– Curtails journalists’ freedom of speech and their right to report on matters of public interest.
– Jeopardizes the right to livelihood of courtroom journalists, who rely on reporting from court proceedings.
– Violates Article 18 of the Constitution, which guarantees the right to information and the freedom of expression.

### Similar Petitions Filed

In addition to the petitions filed in Sindh, Lahore, and Islamabad high courts, similar petitions have been filed in other courts across the country, highlighting the widespread concern over Pemra’s ban on court coverage.

### Impact on Courtroom Journalism

The petitions emphasize the critical role of courtroom journalism in informing the public about the functioning of the judiciary and holding those in power accountable. Pemra’s ban, if upheld, would severely undermine the profession of courtroom journalism and deprive the public of vital information about the justice system.