Govt imposes ban on media coverage of contemptuous content against judiciary

Says TV channels, publications to be proceeded against for contempt of court in case of non-compliance

Ayaz Akbar Yousafzai
Govt imposes ban on media coverage of contemptuous content against judiciary
Police personnel walk past the Supreme Court of Pakistan building, in Islamabad, April 6, 2022. — Reuters

  • Press Info Dept notification refers to Supreme Court's May 17 order.
  • Top court order related to Vawda, Kamal pressers against judiciary.
  • Broadcasting contemptuous material tantamount to contempt of court.

ISLAMABAD: The federal government on Thursday barred TV channels and newspapers from broadcasting or publishing contemptuous content against the judiciary in line with the orders of the Supreme Court.

A notification issued by the Press Information Department (PID) referred to the Supreme Court’s May 17 order wherein it issued show-cause notices to independent Senator Faisal Vawda and Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) leader Mustafa Kamal in contempt of court proceedings over their hard-hitting pressers against the judiciary.

A three-member apex court's bench, headed by Chief Justice Qazi Faez Isa and comprising Justice Irfan Saadat Khan and Justice Naeem Akhtar Afgan, on May 18 issued a written order in a suo motu case taken on press conferences held by Vawda and Kamal targeting the judiciary and its judges.

The order also restrained the media from airing and publishing material constituting contempt of court and warned that upon failure, they might be proceeded against by the law.

“That television channels and all those who broadcast, re-broadcast and/or publish material constituting contempt of court may also be committing contempt of court; therefore, they should desist from doing so, failing which they may also be proceeded against for contempt of court,” the PID quoted the apex court’s order in its notification issued today.

The bench had issued show-cause notices to Vawda and Kamal, holding that what both the politicians said in their press conferences prima facie appeared to be contempt of court and were granted an opportunity to submit their explanation and reply within two weeks of the receipt of show-cause notices.

They were also directed to ensure their appearance before the court on June 5.

The court in its written order noted that on May 15, 2024, Senator Vawda held a press conference at the National Press Club, Islamabad, which was broadcast live on several television channels.

In the press conference, he apparently levelled several malicious and serious allegations against the judiciary, commented on judges of the superior courts and spoke about sub judice cases, including those before this court, said the order, adding that the press conference was also streamed on the internet and social media forums and extracts from his talk were published in different newspapers.

After the matter of Senator Vawda was numbered as Criminal Original No 6 of 2024, the court noted that a similar press conference was conducted by Kamal, a member of the National Assembly, on May 16, 2024, also at the National Press Club, Islamabad, and which was also broadcast live on a number of television channels.