Govt bars media outlets from covering ‘contemptuous’ content against judiciary

The federal government on Thursday barred TV channels and newspapers from broadcasting or publishing contemptuous content against the judiciary following orders from the Supreme Court.

A notification issued by the Press Information Department (PID) referred to the Supreme Court’s May 17 order, which issued show-cause notices to independent Senator Faisal Vawda and Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) leader Mustafa Kamal in contempt of court proceedings over their critical press conferences against the judiciary.

A three-member bench of the apex court, headed by Chief Justice Qazi Faez Isa and including Justice Irfan Saadat Khan and Justice Naeem Akhtar Afgan, issued a written order on May 18 in a suo motu case regarding the press conferences held by Vawda and Kamal targeting the judiciary and its judges.

The order also restrained the media from airing and publishing material constituting contempt of court and warned that non-compliance might result in legal action.

“That television channels and all those who broadcast, re-broadcast, and/or publish material constituting contempt of court may also be committing contempt of court; therefore, they should desist from doing so, failing which they may also be proceeded against for contempt of court,” the PID quoted the apex court’s order in its notification issued today.

The bench issued show-cause notices to Vawda and Kamal, stating that their press conferences prima facie appeared to be contempt of court and granted them an opportunity to submit their explanations and replies within two weeks of receiving the show-cause notices.

They were also directed to ensure their appearance before the court on June 5.

The court’s written order noted that on May 15, 2024, Senator Vawda held a press conference at the National Press Club, Islamabad, which was broadcast live on several television channels.

In the press conference, he apparently made several malicious and serious allegations against the judiciary, commented on judges of the superior courts, and spoke about sub judice cases, including those before this court, said the order. The press conference was also streamed on the internet and social media platforms, and excerpts from his talk were published in various newspapers.

After the matter of Senator Vawda was numbered as Criminal Original No 6 of 2024, the court noted that a similar press conference was conducted by Kamal, a member of the National Assembly, on May 16, 2024, also at the National Press Club, Islamabad, and which was also broadcast live on a number of television channels.

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