ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court Chief Justice Athar Minallah has said that freedom of expression comes first in fundamental human rights given in the Constitution but Pakistan stands at number 143 in freedom of expression among the world countries. He said no society can develop without freedom of expression.
“The constitutional courts of Pakistan will not let violate the freedom of expression like rights of people,” Justice Athar Minallah said, adding that “whatever is happening in India, we won’t let it happen in Pakistan.”
The IHC chief justice passed these remarks while hearing a contempt case regarding controversial comments passed by different television channels after former prime minister Nawaz Sharif was bailed last year.
The court allowed the Council of Pakistan Newspapers Editors (CPNE) to file its reply in two weeks in the contempt case. Geo Television Network’s Hamid Mir and other TV anchors, a representative of Pemra and IHC Journalists Association two presidents Amir Abbasi and Jahangir Aslam Baloch attended the proceedings.
Hamid Mir said though it was a contempt of court case, but wanted to inform that this court had earlier announced a detail judgment regarding the National Accountability Bureau’s domain to arrest the criminals.
He said the NAB officials violated the law and had arrested Jang/Geo group Editor-in-Chief Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman, adding that the NAB’s actions could be considered as contempt of court.
The Chief Justice remarked that the court had given the detailed judgment in a separate case and Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman’s arrest could not pose contempt of court charges, saying that he had explained the term of reference about the NAB’s law.
Meanwhile, Hamid Mir told the court that Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman has extended his support for investigation and if any alleged criminals positively responding the investigation could not be detained. He said that the government has issued a notification to regulate the social media, though the federal cabinet had passed the Social Media Rules but government’s ministers told that there was not discussion on the Bill.
Barrister Jahangir Jadoon told the court that their application is on process in the same court that issued a notification to the government to respond. He told that Pemra had ordered cable operators were told to change the Geo New positions. He prayed the court to take action over steps against freedom of media. The chief justice said the court doesn’t have the powers of suo motu.
Presidents of the two factions of IHC Journalists Association Aamir Abbasi and Jahangir Aslam also appeared before the court and submitted their written replies about the case. Aamir Abbasi said journalists are doing self-accountability and press club membership of non-journalists has been terminated through scrutiny.
Hamid Mir said question mark still exists on membership of 600 journalists. The chief justice said no one should mind criticism because it is a key to moving forward. He said laws exist, but these are not acted upon. He said Pakistan is on 143rd position in freedom of expression index. He said whatever is happening in India for supressing freedom of expression, won’t be allowed to happen in Pakistan. He said rule of law will be ensured in Pakistan. He said the Pakistani courts will never allow usurpation of right of freedom of expression of citizens.
The CPNE sought some time for submitting its reply in the court which was granted. The hearing of the case was adjourned for two weeks.