LAHORE: The Lahore High Court (LHC) on Tuesday stayed a decision by the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) to suspend the licence of news channel 24 News HD over “non-compliance with its terms of license”.
The media regulatory body had on July 3 suspended with “immediate effect” the channel’s licence for “illegal transmission of news and current affairs content”. Following PEMRA’s decision, the management announced to shut down the channel and issued one-month notices of termination of services to its 965 staffers.
The court, while issuing notices to the authority and the federal government, sought their replies on the matter during Wednesday’s hearing.
According to a press release issued by the media regulatory body the other day, the licence was in fact issued to Central Media Network (Pvt) Ltd for its sister concern Value TV which “illegally” changed its name to 24 News HD.
The channel was granted the licence to air entertainment content but instead, it was “persistently illegally and unlawfully airing news and current affairs in continuous violation of PEMRA laws”, the statement said.
Subsequently, the Central Media Network had challenged PEMRA’s suspension in the LHC, terming it “illegal” and nominated the federal government and the authority as respondents.
In its petition, the media house said that PEMRA had issued a show-cause notice to the channel on May 5, adding that the channel’s representative had attended a hearing on the matter on June 1 and a written reply had also been submitted.
However, the petition said, after a decision issued by the PEMRA chairman on July 3, the channel’s licence was suspended on “alleged violation in a change of logo and content without permission”. The petition also stated that the channel had applied for a change in license category in 2015, which was “partially approved”.
The petition argued that an order could not be issued solely by the chairman of PEMRA and required the signatures of all twelve members of the body. It also claimed that the authority had allowed variations in the programming of other channels and that this was a case of “discrimination”.
The petition called on the high court to set aside PEMRA’s decision and to issue a stay order until a judgment was given in the case.
The defence, while opposing the request for a stay order, argued that the case could not be heard in the LHC since all the proceedings had been conducted in Islamabad. The lawyer suggested that the media organisation should have approached the Islamabad High Court (IHC).
Justice Sajid Mehmood Sethi, who has decided to hear the case on a daily basis, after hearing the arguments ordered for the channel’s licence to be reinstated and issued notices to the government and PEMRA to respond during Wednesday’s hearing.
PML-N LAUDS COURT’S DECISION:
Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) senior leader Ahsan Iqbal, during a press conference, lauded the court’s decision, saying it had “put a stop to an oppressive step taken by the government”.
Earlier on Monday, the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) had called for a countrywide strike to protest against the alleged highhandedness of Pemra authorities, suspension of the licence of TV Channel 24 and nonpayment of salaries to media workers by media houses.