Islamabad - Islamabad High Court on Tuesday issued notices to secretaries of ministries of interior and information as well as chairman PEMRA in a writ petition seeking its directions to concerned authorities to create awareness among public about consequences of disclosure of identity of the victims of rape.

A single bench of the IHC comprising Justice Athar Minallah heard the petition moved by Sharafat Ali Chaudhry and Umer Sajjad and directed the respondents to submit their replies within a fortnight.

After issuing the notices, the bench deferred hearing in the matter.

In the petition, the petitioners cited secretaries of ministries of information and interior, chairman PEMRA, chairman PTA and chief secretaries of the four provinces as respondents. They stated in the petition that recent Kasur incident had provided grounds to the petitioners who pleaded the IHC for directives to make sure that disclosure of identity of a victim was not only violation of Electronic Media (Programmes and Advertisements) Code of Conduct, 2015 but also a criminal offence.

The petitioners said that if identity of a victim of rape is disclosed without permission of the victim, parent, officer in charge of the police station or investigation officer or order of the court in writing, the act shall be liable for punishment up to 3-year imprisonment and fine under Pakistan Penal Code.

Citing Section 8 of the Electronic Media Code of Conduct, 2015, they adopted that under the section, the licensees (TV channels) shall ensure that extreme caution shall be exercised in handling themes, plots or scenes that depict sex offence and violence, including rape and other sexual assaults.

They mentioned subsection (6) of the Section 8 which provides that identity of any victim of rape, sexual abuse, terrorism or kidnapping or such victim’s family shall not be revealed without prior permission of the victim or victim’s guardian where the victim is a minor.

The petitioners maintained that although sensible media coverage of the victims could be helpful in some cases, but if it is done with insensitive, voyeuristic and uncaring manner, then it could multiply sufferings of the victim and his or her family resulting in irreparable emotional and psychological loss.

Therefore, they prayed to the court that Ministry of Information, PEMRA and PTA might be directed to take measures against those newspapers, TV channels and social media users who violate the law in addition to making sure that print and electronic media will not disclose identity of the victims of rape except as provided under the law.

The petitioners further requested that the respondents might be directed to create awareness among the masses regarding laws on the subject in order to provide protection to the victims because such publications amount secondary victimisation of the rape victims.