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“Pemra’s Mandate: Ensuring Fair Play for Every Political Party”

LAHORE: The Lahore High Court on Wednesday directed the Pakistan Electronic Media Regula­tory Authority (Pemra) to ensure that level playing field is given to all political parties regarding broadcasting of their content and speeches.

Justice Shams Mahmood Mirza was hearing a petition of former prime minister Imran Khan questioning alleged violation of a stay order against ban on the media coverage of his speeches
This petition was filed before his arrest in the Toshakhana case.

The court observed that restriction on freedom of speech was witnessed in totalitarian dictatorial regimes and in free democracies such bans must be negated.

­­ercise. He noted that since the elections were round the corner, therefore, political parties must be given freedom to communicate and advance their agendas to the masses.

Earlier, Assistant Attorney General Sheraz Zaka opposed the petition on behalf of the federal government. He pointed out that a US court disqualified former president Donald Trump from contesting the next presidential election for making hateful speeches and inciting people to attack Capitol. He argued that the state had to strike a balance between maintenance of public order and freedom of speech.

The law officer also referred to Faizabad dharna case judgement in which Justice Qazi Faez Isa reprimanded the Pemra for not taking action against hateful incendiary speeches made by a religious party.

He said the government and Pemra were implementing Faizabad dharna case judgement.

The assistant attorney general argued that a similar situation transpired that due to the hateful speeches of the former prime minister and his followers launched an attack on army installations on May 9. He said the ban on his (Imran Khan) speech­­es must be sustained.

Justice Mirza observed that the elections are round the corner and every political party must be given freedom of speech.

The judge directed Pemra to ensure freedom is accorded to every political party and any content, speech of a political party on social media websites would not be blocked. He also directed Advocate Haroon Duggal, the counsel for Pemra, to submit an affidavit on behalf of the authority’s chairman with an undertaking to ensure freedom of speech for all political party leaders.

The court then adjour­n­­ed hearing for two weeks.

On behalf of the PTI founding chairman, Advocate Ahmad Pansota earlier said the government violated a court’s order and banned coverage of the petitioner in the media.

He said the government also jailed the petitioner besides silencing his voice. He argued that the law mandated equal media coverage of all political leaders.

He asked the court to take action against Pemra authorities for defying the stay order, as Pemra had slapped the ban after Imran Khan lashed out at former army chief Qamar Javed Bajwa for, what he called, protecting incumbent rulers in their alleged corruption cases.

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