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Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Did journalists sign the petition for Nawaz Sharif without going through it?

Asma Shirazi and Zahid Hussain and Nasim Zehra have withdrawn their names. Dr. Shahbaz Gill has raised an important question: did these journalists sign an important petition without going through it?

As the Islamabad High Court (IHC) Chief Justice Athar Minallah on Thursday said the “court cannot grant relief to an absconder” while hearing a petition challenging Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority’s (Pemra) order to ban speeches, interviews and public addresses by proclaimed offenders, there is a debate going in Pakistan about the role of journalists who filed the petition.

The petition was filed by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) and 15 renowned journalists, anchorpersons and media analysts. The order came after PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif’s speech was broadcast live by the electronic media while he was addressing a multi-parties conference via video link from London in October.

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“[This is] a test for the entire judicial system. You want that relief be granted to all absconding suspects?” the CJ questioned and added: “Granting relief to an absconding suspect is not in the public interest.”

“Your appeal would grant relief to all absconding suspects which the court does not want to give,” the judge said and told the counsel to prepare arguments to convince the court to take up the petition for further hearing.

The case was adjourned until December 16.

PEMRA issued an order

The regulatory body, in a statement, prohibited the broadcasting of content including commentary, opinions or suggestions about the potential fate of sub-judice matter which tends to prejudice the determination by a court and a tribunal in compliance with the order passed by the Supreme Court of Pakistan.

“If the licensee fails to comply with the aforementioned directives, the authority shall take action under Section 29 and 30 of PEMRA Ordinance which may result in the imposition of fine and suspension/revocation of licence,” it added.

Sharif had left for London late last year after securing bail for medical treatment in the Chaudhry Sugar Mills case and the Al Azizia reference.

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The Supreme Court, on July 28, 2017, had disqualified Nawaz in the Panama Papers case and ordered the NAB to file separate cases which were respectively called Avenfiled, Al-Azizia and Flagship references.

Journalists distance from the petition?

Senior journalists Zahid Hussain and Naseem Zehra announced that they were withdrawing from the application, saying that a petition for media freedom “can’t be narrowly focused on just one issue”.

“I was told [the petition] was being filed for media freedom — instead it’s about rights of an absconder regarding Article 19,” Zehra said in a tweet.

In another tweet, she said: “A media freedom petition can’t be narrowly focused on just one issue — instead it must cover dozens of examples of government/establishment muzzling media freedom which includes journalist nabbing and channel banning too.”

Quoting Zehra’s tweet, columnist Hussain said he agreed with her point of view and announced his withdrawal from the application. He added, however, that he “fully support(ed) freedom of expression for everyone”.

Journalist and anchorperson Asma Sherazi said that she “gave [her] consent” to the petition “based on the principal (sic) of freedom of expression”

“But the petition in the form it is presented in the court is not what I agreed to nor I want this matter to be viewed from a specific person’s point of view,” she said in a tweet.

PML-N’s journalists deliberately signed the petition?

However, Adeel Raja, a journalist and political commentator, shared a video clipped where Dr. Musadik Malik of PML-N was telling Maria Memon, another prominent journalist, in her show on ARY News that some journalists were planning to file a petition against the PEMRA’s order.

Shahbaz Gill, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister (SAPM) on Political Communication, also questioned the credibility of the journalist who signed this petition and asked if “the journalists had signed it without even going through it”.

Dr. Gill maintained that “these journalists have also damaged the credibility of real journalists”.