In an important development the Lahore High Court (LHC) stayed a decision by the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) of suspending the license of television channel 24 News-HD for “noncompliance with its terms of license”. The court also issued notices to the regulatory body and the federal government seeking their opinion on the matter in Wednesday hearing.
PEMRA had suspended the license of 24 News on Friday for airing the transmission of news and current affairs contradicting the entertainment content for which it was authorized. The press release read that the Central Media Network (Pvt) Ltd. was awarded with the license for its channel “Value TV” that was illegally changed to 24 News-HD and consistently and unlawfully airing the content of news and current affairs for which it had not been permitted.
The channel actually was granted the license to broadcast the entertainment content which it never aired right from its inception to date. The Central Media Network had filed a petition in LHC to challenge PEMRA’s order, claiming that it was an illegal and illegitimate move by the regulatory authority.
The channel was not authorized to air news and current affairs content, claimed PEMRA
The petitioner argued that the channel received a show cause notice from PEMRA on May 05 and its representative had attended a hearing on June 01 and submitted a written reply in this regard. However after PEMRA chairman’s decision on July 03, the authority suspended the license on account of changing the logo and content without prior approval. The petition also read that the management of channel had applied for changing the license category in 2015 which the regulatory authority partially approved. The petition also stated that the signatures of all twelve members were mandatory to make it applicable while the said suspension order was issued with the Chairman’s signature only. It also pleaded that the regulatory authority had permitted the programming variations to other channels and that this was a nothing but a case of “discrimination”.
The petition requested the high court to set aside PEMRA’s decision and to issue a stay order until the final judgment was made in the case. PEMRA’s lawyer, opposed the request for a stay order and argued that LHC could not hear the said case as all the proceedings were carried out in Islamabad. The lawyer contended that the media network should have moved the Islamabad High Court in this regard.
PEMRA allowed other channels for programming variations but acted discriminatingly in our case, the petition stated
After hearing all the arguments Justice Sajid Mehmood Sethi, ordered to reinstate the license of the channel and issued notices to the respondents (Federal Government and PEMRA) to come up with their replies on Wednesday. The opposition parties had criticized the government and the regulatory authority for the said initiative and termed it an attack on the freedom of journalism. Responding to the court’s decision the senior PML-N leader Ahsan Iqbal praised the court’s decision, saying that it had stopped the government from its oppressive step.
Moreover, the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) had announced a nationwide call of strike to protest against the wicked suspension order given by PEMRA and non-payment of media workers’ salaries.