The government on Saturday instructed the Pakistan Electronic Media and Regulatory Authority (Pemra) to reverse a ban on television channels from broadcasting or rebroadcasting PTI Chairman Imran Khan’s press conferences.
According to a statement released by Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif ordered the media watchdog to ensure the continued implementation of legal requirements under Article 19 (freedom of speech) of the Constitution.
The statement said that the direction to lift the ban was given under Section 5 of the Pemra Ordinance 2002.
The information minister stated that the government did not support “what Imran Khan did during his four years in office” with the then-opposition leaders and politicians, adding that the prime minister “has built a new tradition by eliminating the painful traditions of Imran Khan’s era.”
“We support constitutional freedoms of expression and democratic ideas. Imran Khan’s negative outlook and mentality have been to ban political rivals, leaders, activists, and the media.
“Let Imran Khan talk if he wants to criticise political rivals. Let the people hear Imran Khan’s statement against us so they can understand the true nature of this threat, Aurangzeb commanded.
The government, she continued, thought democratically, in contrast to “fascist Imran Khan.”
Earlier, a Pemra notification that was made accessible to Dawn.com stated that Imran had “cast aspersions upon the state institutions by levelling bogus claims for coordinating an assassination plan” during his long march speeches and a day earlier.
Imran reiterated his accusations against Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah, and a senior intelligence official whom he identified as Major General Faisal Naseer — without providing any evidence — of hatching a plot to assassinate him and demanded they immediately resign to ensure a fair investigation. This was in his first press conference following the attempt on his life at Wazirabad.
Additionally, he requested that the army’s top general, General Qamar Javed Bajwa, pay attention to the incident and the alleged involvement of a military officer, whom he referred to as the “black sheep” of the army. He also pleaded with Pakistan’s Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial to provide him justice.
Imran urged the army chief to dismiss spy agency officer Maj Gen Faisal Naseer and look into him for allegedly planning a plot to kill him since, according to him, a first information report of the attack was not being documented out of fear of repercussions from the “higher powers.”
In its notice, Pemra published the aforementioned remarks in addition to further transcriptions of Imran’s speeches or chats from various locations throughout his arduous march to Islamabad.
It went on to explain that airing such material violated a number of laws and articles and was likely to incite “hate among the people,” be detrimental to the upkeep of law and order, disturb public peace and tranquilly, or damage national security.
Imran’s remarks, according to Pemra, were “hateful, slanderous, vilifying and unjustifiable accusations against the country’s leadership and state institutions,” and they were blatant violations of numerous laws, the organisation added.
Imran’s remarks had been broadcast on television without any editorial review or time-delay mechanism, according to the notification, thus it was forbidden to broadcast his statements going forward.
The warning states, “In case of any breach, observed licence may be suspended… in the public interest along with other enabling sections of legislation, without any show-cause notice.”
PTI Senator Faisal Javed responded to the development by saying that the party would sue to overturn the ban and that “millions still would continue to watch Imran’s talks on digital media.”