The Supreme Court is all set to give certain guidelines to all stakeholders, including law enforcement agencies, regarding freedom of the press and harassment of media persons.
The court while hearing the Suo Motu Case regarding protection of journalists has also posed a question as to whether Section 27 of PEMRA Ordinance is inconsistent with Article 19 of the Constitution which ensures press freedom.
A three-judge special bench of the apex court led by Justice Ijaz Ul Ahsan has sought legal assistance from Attorney General for Pakistan Khalid Jawed Khan regarding interpretation of Section 27 of the PEMRA Act as well as Section 20 of Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (PECA) 2016 which are allegedly misused to curtail freedom of the press.
The bench has also expressed serious concerns regarding the failure of Islamabad police to apprehend the accused involved in attacks on media-persons in the federal capital during the past one year.
Justice Qazi Muhammad Amin Ahmed observed that it is a big failure on the part of the capital police not to have arrested culprits involved in attacks on media-persons in Islamabad.
The judge said that there is always a motive behind every crime, pointing out that there would be people who would have been angered by these journalists’ comments.
“Attack on journalists means attack on the constitutional guarantees which are being provided to those journalists”, said Justice Qazi Muhammad Amin Ahmed. He, however, said that if someone did something offensive, then proceedings should be brought against them in accordance with the law.
Justice Ijaz Ul Ahsan said that the court could not interfere in individual matters but it would set out certain principles and interpretations of law to ensure freedom of the press. However, he said that no one has unbridled authority to say anything against anyone as there should be limits to everything. He also noted that it is being observed that FIA is misusing its powers which would not be allowed by the court.
When the bench posed certain queries regarding applicability of PECA to curtail freedom of expression, Justice Amin said that he is concerned about ordinary citizens who approach relevant agencies to ensure protection of human dignity and their privacy safeguarded under Article 14 of the Constitution.
Justice Munib Akhtar observed that freedom of press should not be regulated through PECA 2016. The bench asked Director General FIA to submit a comprehensive report regarding the cases filed under Section 20 of PECA.
Earlier, DG FIA submitted his report stating that the FIA had received 27 complaints wherein inquiry was initiated in four matters. The bench again sought a progress report from IG Islamabad regarding the cases of attacks on journalists in the capital city.
The court also asked President Press of Association of Supreme Court (PAS) Amjad Nazeer Bhatti to hold a meeting with DG FIA at his office to convey his concerns regarding harassment of journalists by the agency.