Supreme Court Seeks Detailed Reports in Hearing on Harassment of Journalists

September 13, 2021 – ISLAMABAD: Justice Ijazul Ahsan directed to look into whether proceedings under the Electronic Crimes Act are in conflict with Article 19.

The Supreme Court heard a suo motu notice on the harassment of journalists and further sought a detailed report from DG FIA, Chairman PEMRA and IG Islamabad. DG FIA was directed to report on cases against journalists in a year while IG Islamabad was asked to submit a detailed report on attacks on journalists in a year. A three-member bench headed by Justice Ijazul Ahsan conducted the hearing.

DG FIA, Chairman PEMRA and IG Islamabad have been ordered to appear in person at the next hearing. The hearing of the case was adjourned indefinitely.

DG FIA Sanaullah Abbasi presented in the Supreme Court.

Justice Ijazul Ahsan remarked on the operations of the FIA and said it ​​takes action first and then looks into the legal process. He said that the FIA ​​sometimes catches someone and sometimes releases him. The FIA ​​should make an FIR under a clear procedure.

When DG FIA remarked that he believes in freedom of the press but regulates it under PECA, Justice Muneeb Akhtar told DG FIA to bring clarity to his thought process, and said the press is not regulated under PECA, rather is guaranteed under Article 19. He further told DG FIA that he is personally responsible for every case.

Justice Muneeb Akhtar also asked what journalism is, and remarked that if he starts criticizing things by creating a YouTube channel, will it be considered journalism?

Justice Ijazul Ahsan asked if PEMRA has set up SOPs for action against journalists or channels? Chairman PEMRA Saleem Baig, who also presented in the Supreme Court, said that PEMRA takes action on violation of code of conduct and rules.

Justice Ijazul Ahsan said that the constitution does not provide for the procedure of PEMRA, so it is necessary to create SOPs. He added that the Supreme Court, as the highest institution of the country, will protect freedom of the press. Boundaries are set for every department and everything, he said.

Talking to Chairman PEMRA, Justice Ijazul Ahsan said that it should be clear where your boundaries start and end. 

In a short span of time, three to four journalists were attacked in Islamabad, Justice Qazi Amin noted. He asked what had become of the accused in a case where a journalist was shot in the stomach.

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