The Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) has issued a notice to satellite TV channels, barring them from airing sensitive footage related to the Noor Muqaddam murder case on Sunday.
In the notice, a copy of which is available with Minute Mirror, the regulatory body ‘prohibited’ satellite TV channels from airing CCTV footage that showed Noor Muqaddam and the accused Zahir Jaffer under section 27 of the PEMRA Ordinance 2002. Section 27 has given PEMRA the authority to bar content, which could potentially cause harm to the ‘ideology of Pakistan or is likely to create hatred among the people or is prejudicial to the maintenance of law and order’.
PEMRA also warned in the notice that action would follow under sections 29, 30, and 33 of the ordinance if channels failed to comply with the order. Section 29 allows PEMRA to investigate cases of non-compliance, while section 30 allows the body to suspend or revoke a channel’s licence if they violated any section of the ordinance. Furthermore, section 33 would allow the authority to fine violators up to Rs10 million.
The notice was issued after detailed CCTV clips showcasing Muqaddam and Jaffer from the day of the murder were publicized on TV channels.
Speaking to Minute Mirror about the CCTV footage in question, PEMRA Council of Complaints Lahore Chairman Ahmed Pansota said that the evidence was brought on record in the trial proceedings and since it was a public document, it could have easily made its way to the public’s purview. The issue, he said, was that the public was discussing the video in a way that could impact the legal proceedings in the case.
“I am not commenting against the release of the CCTV footage, even though I believe it shouldn’t have happened, because it is someone’s private information,” said Pansota. “It should not be used to effect the outcome of the proceedings.”
Great hue and cry had ensued after the footage of Muqaddam’s final moments was aired. Several, including Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PMLN) leader Marriyum Aurangzeb said it was insensitive to Muqaddam’s family to air the video on television and questioned whether PEMRA had any legal mechanisms in place to deal with the affront. A Twitter account titled ‘Justice for Noor’ that is run by Muqaddam’s friends and has been advocating for justice in the case, said it was extremely disturbing to see that the footage was leaked right after it was given to the defense team. The tweet noted that the judge had ordered the video not be released, but it had now spread publicly.
Absolutely shocked & shattered. Its only been a day since the CCTV footage was given to the defense legal team.The Judge told them that it shouldn't be leaked at all. Now it's out there. No regard of what this would be like for Noor's loved ones. Havent they been through enough.
— Justice for Noor (@justicefornoor) November 13, 2021
Pansota said that it was understandable why people were outraged by the contents of the CCTV footage, but as a lawyer himself he said he had to pay due heed to the Constitution of Pakistan as it granted rights to both sides. The constitution, he said, granted the right to fair trial to all citizens but at the same time, ‘guaranteed the inviolable dignity of man’.
Pansota said that the case must take the due course of law.
“It is about supporting the constitution, the law and the spirit of natural justice and the spirit of Islamic justice,” said Pansota. “The trial has to be in accordance with the law before it reaches some other place.”
PEMRA’s notification today followed a judgement passed by the COC under Pansota on November 2. Pansota said that advocate Zain Soomro had lodged a complaint with PEMRA that the media coverage of the case could possibly manipulate the public and the judiciary’s opinion in the ongoing trial.
In his judgement on the complaint, Pansota held that media could not discuss sub-judice matters in a way that would ‘prejudice’ the case proceedings. Citing a situational example, Pansota said channels could report objectively that there was a trial held in the murder case in which the CCTV footage was discussed. However, if they started editorializing the news in a way that played to the sentiments of the viewers, then that would be counted as swaying public opinion, and therefore impeding due course of justice.