IHC reserves ruling on appeals against TV shows

ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court reserved its judgment on intra-court appeals (ICA) filed by the Pakistan Broadcasters Association (PBA) and a media group who challenged IHC’s recent verdict on the strict enforcement of guidelines on all TV channels.
IHC’s division bench, comprising Justice Aamer Farooq and Justice Mohsin Akhtar Kayani, reserved the judgment on appeals requesting the court to set aside the single bench’s order that barred private television channels from airing programs various game shows during Ramazan.
The bench is expected to announce the judgment.
Requesting the court to declare the order void, the PBA and ARY TV media group had filed the intra-court appeals.
PBA’s counsel Ali Zafar contended that the court assumed the role of a ‘controller’ of media content and programming on TV channels, not envisaged under the Constitution and the law and hence the order was void and liable to be set aside.
He said that the IHC had no jurisdiction under Article 199 to ban any programs, including entertainment programs and advertisements, issue directions for programming and make censorship boards and committees for compliance.
According to him, the court also could not ban or specify individuals who could speak on religion, issue guidelines or direct the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) to issue guidelines on programming and content of programs or their timings etc, or direct TV channels as contained in the impugned order.
“The finding whether or not a show is indecent or immoral or should or should not be shown is a legislative matter and parliament is the true representative of the people. The court cannot impose its own sense of morality or decency or perceived values of Islam on the public as done in the impugned order,” he said.
PBA’s petition maintained that the IHC had wrongly found all foreign advertisements, dramas and films, programmes such as ‘Neelam Ghar’, other foreign content, entertainment and music shows and programmes inviting donations to be in violation of Article 19, Pemra law and the Code of Conduct.
Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui had barred all programmes which do not comply with the Pemra guidelines while ordering strict monitoring and stern action against all violators.
Justice Siddiqui held that “No programme suggestive of containing lottery and gambling, even apparently for … awarding Hajj/Umra tickets shall be … aired either live or recorded.”
“(The airing of) programmes such as Nelaam Ghar and those appearing to be like circus-shows must be stopped”.
Justice Siddiqui also directed ministries of information, interior and PEMRA to ensure that the orders were complied with strictly.
All TV channels were also directed to telecast ‘Azan’ (call to prayers) five times a day.
The court also banned dramas, films and advertisements of foreign origin, particularly from India.
Justice Siddiqui pointed out that only 10 per cent foreign contents was allowed subject to the approval of the relevant committee.
The committee, he said, would ensure that all content complied with injunctions of Islam, PEMRA laws, electronic media code of conduct and judgments of the superior judiciary.
The judgment also stated that channels airing any content, deemed by the regulator to be obscene, indecent and immoral, would face strict penalties.
Justice Siddiqui also stated that indecency, immorality and obscenity should not be tolerated and all programmes must preserve the sanctity and the spirit of Ramazan.
The judge also held that no advertisements should be aired at least five minutes prior to Iftar and instead directed TV channels to telecast Darood Sharif and prayer for national solidarity, prosperity and peace.
Justice Siddiqui said that all TV channels and Pemra licensees should ensure that the sanctity of Ramazan was preserved and hosts should ensure this too
He also ordered the committee concerned to file a compliance report after the first 10 days of Ramazan.