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Punjab Bar Council concerned on defamation case against Najam Sethi

“Under the critical circumstances, Punjab Bar Council condemns the efforts to curb Najam Sethi’s voice and considers it an attack on the freedom of expression and on independent media,” the statement read.

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News Desk |

Punjab Bar Council (PBC) has expressed concerns over Prime Minister Imran Khan’s defamation lawsuit against senior journalist and anchorperson Najam Sethi.

In a press release issued on Wednesday, the PBC officials while voicing reservations said that Sethi has won several national and international awards and he is an estimable voice of Pakistan.

“Under the critical circumstances, the Punjab Bar Council condemns the efforts to curb Najam Sethi’s voice and considers it an attack on the freedom of expression and on independent media,” the statement read.

The statement added that freedom of expression is a fundamental right guaranteed by the Constitution of Pakistan and the lawyers’ community would defend this constitutional right at all costs.

PM Khan had filed a defamation case against Sethi seeking damages worth Rs10 billion for making “defamatory” and “slanderous” claims about his personal life in his prime time show on a private news channel.

In addition, the PBC through the statement has made it clear that the bar council would strongly resist all efforts to curb the freedom of the media, Sethi and other renowned journalists.

Meanwhile, the PBC Vice-Chairman Shahnawaz Ismail Gujjar, PBC member executive committee Muneer Hussain Bhatti and other PBC members condemned India’s move to revoke Article 370 of the Indian Constitution thereby ending the special autonomous status of Jammu and Kashmir.

PBC said that India has violated international obligations under the UN resolutions and the Simla accord, adding that the decision is against the wishes of the Kashmiri people. It said that all the parties, media and civil society was standing by the Kashmiri people and would continue the moral and diplomatic support.

Read more: Will stay with Bushra till last breath: PM Khan refutes reports of marital rifts

The bar council has urged media to play its role in making global opinion in favor of the oppressed people of Kashmir. While announcing a strike in the province, the lawyers’ body said that the lawyers were taking out rallies to express solidarity with Kashmiris and to protest against revoking Article 370 and 35-A.

PM Khan Files Rs10b Lawsuit Against Sethi Over ‘Slanderous’ Claims

On August 3, PM Khan had filed a defamation case against Sethi seeking damages worth Rs10 billion for making “defamatory” and “slanderous” claims about his personal life in his prime time show on a private news channel.

“It is earnestly prayed that a permanent injunction be issued against defendant, and in favour of plaintiff, where under restraining defendant for not making any defamatory and slanderous comments against the plaintiff till the final decision of this case,” said the premier in his petition.

PM Khan had also lodged complaint with Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority against Sethi for claiming that the prime minister had “developed differences” with the first lady during a show on a private news channel.

PM through his counsel Dr Babar Awan filed the suit in Islamabad’s district courts. In a statement, Awan said that absurd and shameful claims were made by the news anchor regarding the private life of PM Khan. “Fake news cannot be dealt with leniency,” he said.

What did Sethi Say?

During his talk show, Sethi had claimed that the premier had developed differences with the first lady.

In the application, the PM’s counsel said Sethi’s program aired on March 28, “openly slandered the family and private life of the plaintiff [PM Khan] with an object to degrade and defame the plaintiff in the eyes of general public”.

Awan said the practice of character assassination and violation of rule of law during TV programs needed to be stopped. He hoped that the Sethi would defend his immoral remarks in the court instead of seeking escape routes.

Read more: Public figures, private lives in digital era

Following the development, Sethi while referring to the premier “35 puncture” allegations against him said that he was still waiting for justice from the court for the lawsuit he filed against PM Khan. “Even though PM Imran later publicly admitted there was no truth in his ‘political statement’,” he added in a message on social media.

Earlier in April, PM Khan had also lodged complaint with Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) against Sethi for claiming that the prime minister had “developed differences” with the first lady during a show on a private news channel. Now, the premier has filed the lawsuit.

Court Issues Notice to Sethi Over ‘Derogatory’ Remarks

On August 4, Dawn reported that a local court issued a notice to Sethi on the defamation suit filed by PM Khan for intruding into his private life.

Read more: Imran Khan sues Najam Sethi for 10 billion rupees for false news of divorce

Additional District and Sessions Judge (ADSJ) Basit Aleem took up PM Khan’s application and issued the notice to Sethi for Aug 9. The judge, however, rejected a request from Khan’s counsel for an order to the private television channel to restrain Sethi from hosting his program Najam Sethi Show, saying the matter may be raised before another ADSJ, Mohammad Ali Warraich, who would take up Khan’s application.

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