Pakistan Supreme Court accuses 34 TV channels of irresponsible reporting News
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Pakistan Supreme Court accuses 34 TV channels of irresponsible reporting

Pakistan’s Supreme Court issued contempt notices to 34 TV channels on Wednesday for airing alleged anti-judiciary press conferences of two politicians last month. 

Senator Faisal Vawda, an independent candidate, and Mustafa Kamal, a Muttahida Qaumi Movement lawmaker, were charged with contempt and disrespect of the court when holding separate press conferences and allegedly making critical remarks about the top judiciary judges. The notices accused Vawda and Kamal of “level[ing] severe and malicious allegations against the judiciary.”

A three-member bench, led by Chief Justice Qazi Faez Isa, heard the cases against Kamal and Vawda. Pakistan Today reported that during the press conferences, “Vawda emphasized the need for evidence before making allegations, while Kamal called for ethical standards for judges.”

The court issued show-cause notices to both leaders and instructed the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) to submit video recordings and transcripts of their press conferences. PEMRA is an independent and constitutionally established federal institution of Pakistan that regulates media and issues channel licenses. Its directive is said to “improve information standards.”

 The court alleged that the media channels broadcast obscene language, instructed the channels to respond within two weeks, and asked PEMRA to clarify its stance on the ban. “There is no ban on court reporting,” Chief Justice Aamer Farooq said, “only a prohibition on irresponsible reporting.” 

Vawda had requested the court withdraw the contempt notice, noting other politicians had made similar remarks without facing the consequences. He emphasized his respect for the judiciary and pleaded to withdraw the case. The court clarified that the notice was about criticism against the judiciary, not personal criticism. Justice Saadat noted concern for Vawda’s explicit targeting of specific judges. 

During the hearing, Barrister Farogh Naseem, representing Kamal, requested acceptance of his client’s unconditional apology, explaining that Kamal had simply referred to pending usury cases. The court inquired if those cases were before the Federal Shariat Court and expressed dismay at the abusive language. Kamal formally apologized for the press conference, but the court rejected it and urged his counsel to hold a press conference to express genuine remorse. 

Pakistan is currently ranked 152 out of 180 regarding freedom of the press by Reporters Without Borders. There has been a rise in concern for the safety of journalists in Pakistan following a pattern of violence against journalists. Earlier in May, four journalists were killed in separate attacks across Punjab, Sindh, Baluchistan, and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces.

The notices against the TV channels will adjourn the case until June 28.