Authorities directed to ensure equal media coverage for Imran Khan

LHC issues order on PTI founder plea against the alleged ban on media coverage of his speeches

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan. — Reuters/File
Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan. — Reuters/File
  • Justice Shams Mirza Mehmood issues 10-page verdict.
  • Every citizen has right to free speech, says LHC.
  • Freedom of speech be allowed via free media: verdict.

LAHORE: The Lahore High Court (LHC) has ordered equal media coverage for all candidates contesting the February 8 general elections including incarcerated former premier Imran Khan.

The LHC directive comes on the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) founder’s plea against the alleged ban on media coverage of his speeches.

Earlier this month, the LHC disposed of the PTI founder’s petition with observations that directions with regard to telecasting the speeches of the PTI leader would be issued in a detailed judgment.

Justice Shams Mirza Mehmood of LHC on Wednesday issued the 10-page written verdict on the incarcerated PTI founder’s appeal against the alleged ban on his media coverage.

In the verdict, the LHC stated that Article 17 of the Constitution ensures that every citizen has the right to free speech among other rights.

The LHC said running an election campaign and advertising an election manifesto is a fundamental right of all political parties.

It further said freedom of speech should be allowed via free media for the conduct of free and transparent elections and added that free polls are not possible without allowing freedom of expression.

The LHC judge also cited decisions in former prime ministers Nawaz Sharif and Benazir Bhutto cases as precedent in the written decision.

The federal government, the information ministry and other parties, including Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory (Pemra), had submitted their responses to the LHC.

The PTI founder’s advocate Ahmad Pansota had told the court it is a legal requirement for political parties to get airtime on the principle of equality.

The LHC had also ordered Pemra not to pressurise TV channels to bar the telecast of PTI leader Imran Khan’s speeches.

Pemra had stated that there was no ban on telecasting the speeches of Khan on electronic media.

The PTI has suffered back-to-back setbacks ahead of the February 8 polls as its top leaders — khan and Shah Mahmood Qureshi — were handed a 10-year jail term in cipher case.

Earlier today, the PTI founder along with his spouse Bushra Bibi was sentenced to 14 years in prison — the harshest punishment yet in the multiple cases registered against him — in Toshakhana reference relating to the illegal selling of state gifts.

PTI has termed the cases as politically motivated and alleged that they are part of the efforts to deny a level playing field ahead of the national vote.

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