PEMRA Notification Banning Former Senator from Appearing on TV Declared Abuse of Power

Urdu update here | English translation by Romessa Nadeem

Islamabad High Court has issued another important decision regarding freedom of expression. The decision to revoke citizenship and ban former senator Hafiz Hamdullah, a critic of government policies and a member of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam, has been annulled. In a 29-page judgment, Chief Justice Athar Minallah of the High Court wrote that PEMRA had misused its authority by directing TV channels not to invite Hafiz Hamdullah to their programs.

The Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) issued a notification on October 26, 2019, directing TV channels to refrain from inviting or promoting Hafiz Hamdullah in their programs. The Islamabad High Court wrote in its judgment, “By doing so, PEMRA has violated the fundamental rights of every citizen given under Articles 19 and 19A of the Constitution of Pakistan.”

High Court Chief Justice Athar Minallah also ruled that no rules give PEMRA unchecked powers to influence or regulate the content of TV channels and its guests. There was no justification for issuing such a notification. The Islamabad High Court (IHC) has annulled the PEMRA notification, declaring it illegal.

The ban imposed by PEMRA was based on the fact that former Senator Hafiz Hamdullah’s identity card had been revoked by the officials of the National Database Registration Authority (NADRA). He is no longer a Pakistani citizen so he cannot be called on TV channels, according to PEMRA. However, the Islamabad High Court also declared NADRA’s action illegal and ordered it to restore the identity of Hafiz Hamdullah. The court also ordered to restore the citizenship of 10 other citizens affected by similar actions of NADRA.

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