SC Puts 34 TV Channels On Notice For Airing Contentious Pressers by Vawda, Kamal

The top court rejected the apology and explanations offered by the two lawmakers. Directs PEMRA to submit a response regarding the ban on reporting court proceedings

SC Puts 34 TV Channels On Notice For Airing Contentious Pressers by Vawda, Kamal

The Supreme Court on Wednesday issued contempt notices to 34 television channels for airing alleged anti-judiciary press conferences of Senator Faisal Vawda and Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) MNA Mustafa Kamal as it rejected the explanation and apologies offered by the latter.

On Wednesday, a three-judge bench of the Supreme Court, headed by Chief Justice Qazi Faez Isa and comprising Justice Naeem Akhtar Afghan and Justice Irfan Saadat Khan, heard a contempt of court case against Kamal and Vawda—taken in consequence of suo moto notice taken by the top court. The two lawmakers appeared before the bench along with their respective legal counsels.

Kamal already tendered an unconditional and unqualified apology. However, Vawda had submitted a detailed reply, wherein he had defended his press conference as not against anyone or any institution in particular but rather in defence of certain judges. Vawda had requested the court to withdraw the notice. 

Kamal's legal representative, Barrister Farogh Naseem, requested the court to accept his client's unconditional apology. He submitted that Kamal's press conference referred to the pending Riba (usury) cases. 

At this, Chief Justice Isa asked whether those cases had been filed before the Federal Shariat Court. Regarding the decision to take a suo motu notice over the press conference, the CJP Isa expressed his dismay at being subjected to abusive language, further questioning whether such language was acceptable in any country. The top judge, however, quickly clarified that the notices issued to Kamal and Vawda were not about criticism directed at him personally but rather about criticism directed towards the judiciary. 

Moiz Ahmed, who was representing Vawda, expressed his client's desire to discuss the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) role.

Justice Saadat noted that Vawda's press conference was against Justice Babar Sattar and Justice Athar Minallah. Curiously, in his reply, Vawda had specificially stated that his press conference was not against the two judges but rather in support of them.

Further, Justice Saadat asked Barrister Naseem, Kamal's counsel, to hold a press conference expressing remorse over his earlier presser against the judiciary.

During the hearing, the chief justice criticised television channels for broadcasting contemptuous language and questioned the ban imposed by PEMRA on reporting court proceedings. He stressed the importance of journalistic integrity and criticised those allegedly spreading falsehoods for monetary gain.

Later, the court issued notices to 34 television channels for airing derogatory speeches and instructed them to respond within two weeks.

The court also directed PEMRA to submit its response regarding the ban on reporting court proceedings.

Kamal's apology was rejected by the bench while it accepted a request by Vawda's counsel to grant time reconsider the reply submitted. The court granted Vawda a week to submit his response and adjourned further hearings until June 28. 

The writer is an Islamabad based journalist working with The Friday Times. He tweets @SabihUlHussnain