'Freedom Of Speech Must Be Protected': SC Summons FIA, PEMRA Chiefs In Journalists' Harassment Case

'Freedom Of Speech Must Be Protected': SC Summons FIA, PEMRA Chiefs In Journalists' Harassment Case

Days after the Supreme Court decided that it is the sole prerogative of Chief Justice of Pakistan to take suo motu notice, a three-member bench of the apex court Monday summoned top brass of Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA), Islamabad police and others in a case pertaining to harassment of journalists.

A three-member bench of Justice Ijazul Ahsan resumed hearing of a suo motu that apex court's Justice Qazi Faez Isa has taken in response to a plea of journalists. The others who have been summoned to appear before the court include Attorney General for Pakistan, the Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) Advocate General and all the provincial advocate generals at the next hearing.

The bench also sought a report from the Islamabad High Court (IHC) registrar regarding the status of pending cases of media persons.

During the proceedings, Justice Ahsan observed that the court will intervene to protect journalists’ rights, saying that the court has endorsed the stance of journalists in the matters related to their salaries. A member of the bench, Justice Munib Akhtar, remarked that constitutional provisions of Pakistan guarantee freedom of press in the country. Citing constitutions of USA, Germany and India he observed all these country's laws also protect freedom of press.

Justice Qazi Muhammad Amin Ahmed said that journalists are supposed to do journalism instead of politics saying decorum of journalism and freedom of expression must be protected in the realm of decency.

One of the former presidents of the PAS Abdul Qayoom Siddiqui, Asad Toor and Amir Mir withdrew their applications in the matter upon which Justice Qazi Faez Isa has taken suo motu.  Justice Muneeb Akhtar remarked the court will conduct hearing of the matter whereas Justice Ijazul Ahsan observed that the court would have to determine whether anyone’s fundamental right has been infringed, saying media is the conscience and voice of the nation.

Earlier, a divisional bench of the top court led by Justice Qazi Faez Isa had taken suo-motu notice on August 20 while entertaining the application of incumbent and former presidents of Press Association of Supreme Court (PAS)'s application against harassment of media persons. The division bench had also summoned several government functionaries on August 26 before it.

However, on August 23, a five-member larger bench of the apex court, headed by Acting Chief Justice of Pakistan Umar Ata Bandial and comprising Justice Ijaz ul Ahsan, Justice Munib Akhtar, Justice Qazi Muhammad Amin Ahmed and Justice Muhammad Ali Mazhar, 'held in abeyance' the two-member bench order.

The bench had said that the order deviated from the established practice of entertaining the suo motu notices. The top court also held that the Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) was the “sole authority by and through whom the suo motu jurisdiction can be, and is to be, invoked/assumed” under Article 184 (3) of the Constitution.

Later, the bench adjourned the hearing till September 15.