Did Pemra act in light of SC orders, asks LHC

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LAHORE: Hearing a petition against the blacking out of Geo News on cable network, the Lahore High Court on Thursday asked both the sides to come up with arguments on points whether the steps taken by Pemra for the restoration of Geo News were in line with the Supreme Court’s order or cable operators were duty bound to run a specific channel on a specific slot and what were the terms and conditions of their licences to that effect.

The court further said it was yet to be seen what course could be adopted if the cable operators did not broadcast transmission of a channel on a specific slot.Justice Ijazul Ahsan was hearing a petition of the Independent Media Corporation against not restoring the Geo News transmission on the specific slot in line with the Supreme Court’s orders.

Geo News Lahore Bureau chief Khawar Naeem Hashmi, Electronic Media Reporters Association President Asim Naseer, Electronic News Camera Association President Waheed Butt, Jang Workers Union President Rukhsana Nazli, Vice-President Muhammad Arshad, General Secretary Waseem Babar, civil society representative Abdullah Malik, PPP leader Iftikhar Shahid, LHC Bar Association Finance Secretary candidate Amina Ajmal and a large number of senior journalists were present in the courtroom.

At the outset, Pemra informed the court that show-cause notices had been issued to cable operators who did not available on cable network.Geo News counsels Behzad Haider and Jam Asif argued that the transmission had not been completely restored and it was totally closed in many areas. They pointed out that the cable operators had not restored Geo News transmission on its slot as it was on April 19.

At this, the Pemra counsel said Geo News had been restored but the bone of contention between cable operators and Geo News was its restoration on the previous slot. He suggested that the cable operators and Geo News could strike a deal on the issue.

The Geo News counsel contended that the Geo News transmission had not been brought back in compliance with the apex court’s order which was tantamount to an offence. “Now, PEMRA has come up with a plea that Geo’s transmission has been restored after issuance of show-cause notices to cable operators. The Have cable operators become saint?” the counsel questioned.

He said the Pemra had not taken action against the cable operators for violating the court orders. He requested the court to direct the cable operators to restore Geo News to its previous slot.The court, however, said it was a legal issue that would have to be determined.

During the hearing, Azam Nazir Tarar appeared on behalf of Pakistan Broadcasters Association and requested the court that the association wanted to become a party in the case. He said the association had 127 members and they might be affected by restoration of Geo News to its previous slot. The Geo News counsel opposed it; the court, however, adjourned the hearing till July 25.

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