Pakistan court suspends order banning live telecast of Imran Khan’s speeches

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A Pakistan court has suspended an order that banned the live broadcast of Imran Khan’s speeches, saying the state’s media regulatory body had “exceeded its authority.”

The Islamabad High Court on Monday suspended orders from the Pakis­tan Electronic Media Regu­latory Authority (PEMRA) to ban the live telecast of the former prime minister’s speeches.

Chief Justice Athar Minallah observed that the watchdog had “exceeded its authority” and directed PEMRA to appoint an officer who could justify the ban in court.

Pakistan’s media regulatory body had imposed the ban after the former prime minister had criticised police, judicial officials and other state institutions in a speech in Islamabad on 20 August in which he threatened a judge to brace for consequences over the alleged torture of his party aide.

PEMRA accused Mr Khan of levelling “baseless allegations” and “spreading hate speech” against “state institutions and officers” and prohibited live telecasts of his public addresses.

It also said Mr Khan’s speech was in “violation of Article 19 of the constitution” and requested that only pre-recorded speeches be telecast to the public with an “effective delay mechanism”.

During the court hearing, Judge Minallah said: “Can judges be threatened like this? I am saying this with a heavy heart that judges should not have been threatened. It is disappointing that the [incumbent] government is doing exactly what happened in the last three years.”

In a petition filed today, Mr Khan’s lawyers said the ban was “illegal” and “unlawful”.

“It is submitted that no hate speech or any such statements were made against the state institutions during his speech which entails such penal consequences as notified in the impugned notice,” the petition said.

On Saturday, a Pakistani journalist was charged for allegedly attributing “disrespectful” statements about Islam to Mr Khan.

The complainant had claimed that journalist Waqar Satti’s actions had hurt his religious sentiments “as well as that of thousands of other Muslims”.

The case was registered in Punjab province, where Mr Khan’s party won by-elections for 20 seats in the province’s assembly.