LAHORE - Putting a question mark on the freedom of press, the anti-terrorism and national accountability courts in a bizarre move have barred reporters from making coverage of the court proceedings in the provincial metropolis, The Nation has learnt reliably.

It is interesting to note that even Supreme Court and provincial high courts have never imposed such restrictions on the media.

The restrictions have been imposed on reporters by anti-terrorism and NAB courts in Lahore. Such restrictions by the ‘independent judiciary’ against what it said ‘the independent media’ were enough to expose the rule of law.

A few days back, Farzana’s case, the lady who was stoned to death by her family outside the Lahore High Court, was heard by one of the four anti-terrorism courts. The case was of too much significance as people wanted to know about it and the accused who committed such horrible act but media’s entry was strictly barred by the administration of the court.

Reporters, on each date of hearing, have to rely on the statements of the petitioners’ counsels or on law officers who always try their best to conceal the facts of other side. Surely, it is the reason that the case of such great importance had not been reported as it should have been.

Later, the incident of Model Town took place and police officials and the prominent actor of the incident ‘Gullu Butt’ was taken to anti-terrorism courts but no reporter could dare to enter the courts’ premises to attend the proceedings to report it on television or newspaper. The case of Gullu Butt and other high police officials is still a big challenge for reporters.

A similar situation is there at the NAB courts where security personnel do not let reporters enter court premises to discharge their professional duties and try their best to humiliate them as several times has been witnessed.

In this regard, the reporters are asked by the court staff to produce letter duly signed in by the owner or editor of the newspaper seeking permission for court cases coverage. In other words, the security personnel do not consider ‘press card’ a proof for identification and create hurdles for reporters. 

There are four anti-terrorism courts and four national accountability courts, functioning at two different special buildings surrounded by heavy walls in the city.

Talking to the Nation, Judicial Activism Penal chairman Advocate Azhar Siddique said that right to information had been enshrined by Article 19 of the Constitution.

“No one can take away the right to information from any citizen,” says Siddique adding that “It is very awful if the administration of any court is doing that”.

He said, “Independence of media is a hallmark of a democratic society and such restrictions on media by any department or entity is against Article 25 of the Constitution which rules out all sorts of discriminations”.