LHC seeks PEMRA’s reply on petition decrying ban on ‘intimate scenes’

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The Lahore High Court (LHC) has sought a reply from the Pakistan Electronic and Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) after it banned television channels from airing ‘objectionable dramas’ that showed intimate scenes.

A petition taken up by LHC’s Justice Jawad Hasan on Saturday, put forth that PEMRA’s actions were ‘illegal’ and ‘contrary to the ethos of the PEMRA Ordinance 2002’. It argued that PEMRA had no authority to issue such directions and furthered that the media regulator’s move was based on ‘mala fide, ulterior motives’ and was in ‘sheer violation of the fundamental rights of the petitioner’.

The petitioner called upon PEMRA Operations and Broadcast Media General Manager Muhammad Tahir to respond to their claim.

The counsel for the petitioner submitted that the regulator’s directions were nothing but discriminatory and proof of its sickness and incompetence. He argued that these instructions were against the law of the land and were given without consulting the stakeholders concerned or the victims of the notice.

The counsel asked the court to declare PEMRA’s notification as null and void, bar it from passing any direction against the petitioner and suspend operation of the notification passed by the respondent authority.

After hearing the initial arguments, Justice Hassan appointed barrister Ahmed Pansota as amicus curie in the case and directed PEMRA to reply on the next date of hearing.

Talking to Minute Mirror about the case, Pansota said that he has been appointed as amicus curiae in the case just for being a relevant person. “I can’t comment because I could not focus it yet, and it will also not be appropriate at this stage to say anything as it is a sub-judice matter.”

Pansota said he was the chairman of the complaint cell with PEMRA, an independent body of the regulator, adding that he would bring a comprehensive report before the court soon.

PEMRA had earlier directed that TV channels, including those with landing rights in the country, should stay away from airing ‘objectionable dramas/content based on indecent dressing, caressing, bed scenes and gestures, sensitive/controversial plots and unnecessary detailing of the event(s)’.

The notice termed such content as ‘highly disturbing, distressing for the viewers and against the commonly accepted standards of decency’. It also noted that the content being barred was against Islam and Pakistan’s values.