Islamabad - The Islamabad High Court yesterday turned down ARY Communication’s writ petition challenging Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority’s decision to ban its anchor Dr Shahid Masood for 45 days.

A single bench of IHC comprising Justice Aamer Farooq announced the verdict which he had earlier reserved after hearing the arguments of both sides.

The IHC bench declared in its short order that the opinion of Dr Shahid Masood, an ARY television anchor, expressed in his programme was violative of the Code of Conduct and Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) under its section 27 of the PEMRA Ordinance has powers to prohibit media broadcast.

The detailed verdict in this matter will be issued today (Tuesday). In this matter, the TV channel had challenged PEMRA’s order imposing a ban of 45 days on its programme host Dr Shahid Masood who has been anchoring a program “Live With Dr Shahid Masood”.

The regulatory body had imposed a ban on Dr Masood for casting aspersions about the chief justice Sindh High Court.

Justice Aamer noted in its short order that the honorable Supreme Court of Pakistan through an order dated July 21, 2016 had directed PEMRA to submit details about the television channels involved in negative propaganda about the judiciary and PEMRA’s disciplinary actions taken against them. The opinion Dr Shahid Masood expressed in his programme is violative of the code of conduct. Prohibiting Dr Masood from hosting programme for 45 days is a power vested with the authority. And after Dr Masood did not challenge its order instead his channel, the order attained finality, IHC said.

The bench in its order has also referred to the section 27 of PEMRA ordinance under which media broadcast could be prohibited. Section 27 of PEMRA Ordinance reads, “Prohibition of broadcast media or distribution service operation.- The Authority shall by order in writing, giving reasons therefore, prohibit any broadcast media or distribution service operator from.- (a) broadcasting or re-broadcasting or distributing any programme or advertisement if it is of the opinion that such particular programme or advertisement is against the ideology of Pakistan or is likely to create hatred among the people or is prejudicial to the maintenance of law and order or is likely to disturb public peace and tranquility or endangers national security or is pornographic, obscene or vulgar or is offensive to the commonly accepted standards of decency; or (b) engaging in any practice or act which amounts to abuse of media power by way of harming the legitimate interests of another licensee or willfully causing damage to any other person.

The counsel for PEMRA Ali Gillani Advocate had contended that the television anchors could not be allowed to defame people without any proof.

He argued that it is against journalistic ethics that TV anchors set up their own courts and announce verdicts about people. The counsel informed the court that the Supreme Court has also taken notice of this situation and it has sought reply from the PEMRA. The Supreme Court has also sought from PEMRA, details of the disciplinary actions taken against the TV channels running malicious campaigns against the judiciary.

The counsel for ARY Shah Khawar Advocate had contended before the court that Dr Shahid Masood never directly accused any judge of the superior judiciary by name. However, he argued that it was PEMRA which committed contempt of court by clearly naming the judge through its notice. He continued that PEMRA could only initiate action on a complaint that is absent in this matter.

Shah Khawar had maintained that council of complaint without providing a chance to Dr Shahid Masoon imposed a ban that was not even within its ambit of powers. PEMRA’s council of complaint does not even have powers to recommend ban on a television channel.