IHC rejects Geo TV’s plea to stop Pemra proceedings

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ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Thursday rejected the petition to stop proceedings in the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) against the Geo TV initiated on the ISI application.

Justice Riaz Ahmed Khan of the IHC took up the application filed by Independent Media Corporation and Mir Ibrahim-ur-Rahman on Thursday.

Senior lawyer Akram Sheikh appeared before the IHC on behalf of Geo TV. He contended before the court that Geo TV’s senior anchor Hamid Mir was attacked in Karachi on April 19 and the incident was covered worldwide. He said that the Geo TV did not level any charges against any institution but the allegations of Hamid Mir’s brother Amir Mir were broadcast. He said that the three-member Judicial Commission constituted by the Supreme Court was carrying out an investigation into the incident and its findings were being awaited.

Akram Sheikh said that Geo TV received Pemra’s show cause notice on April 23 and the Ministry of Defence played the role of a courier company between an agency and Pemra, and the complaint of the ISI was sent to Pemra at 9:20pm on April 22, 2014 while Pemra, without reviewing the complaint, issued a show cause notice to Geo TV after 12 hours.

Akram Sheikh said that in the ISI’s complaint, it was charged that the Geo TV launched a campaign against the the ISI and its senior officials at 5:30pm and it was also blamed in the complaint that Geo Network was having a history of anti-Pakistan agenda. However, no such allegation was ever levelled or no such complaint was ever filed before. He said that the Pemra was working without a chairman as the Regulator was not authorised to receive any application and issue show cause notice. He said that the Council of Complaint was the right forum to file such application and summon the relevant people.

Akram Sheikh, while referring to the Pemra Ordinance 2002 Section 26, informed the court that it was the mandate of the Council of Complaint to receive the complaint and provide an opportunity of defence to the relevant people or the organisation and then present its recommendations.

He said that in Pemra’s notice received on April 23, the reply was sought within 14 days while it summoned the respondents two days before the end of the time and Pemra had no authority in this regard. When an objection was raised in this regard during the proceedings, it was said that such tactics should be avoided.

He said that he heard such things for the first time in his 42 years of practice in law. He said that Pemra had convened a meeting on Friday to close down Geo TV. At this, Justice Riaz said that it was possible that his objections might be considered in that meeting.

Afterwards, Akram Sheikh cited the verdicts of the Indian courts regarding the freedom of press and appealed to the court that the notice issued by Pemra might be declared as illegal and null and void and the proceedings in Pemra might be stopped. After going through the arguments, the court reserved the verdict. After some time, the court disposed of the petition announcing the short order.

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