HRW Urges Pakistani Judges to Halt Criticism Bans

Posted November 27th, 2012 at 9:10 am (UTC-5)
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Human Rights Watch is urging judges in Pakistan to stop using their power to try to prevent the media from airing criticism of the judiciary.

The group says that, in the past few months, the high courts in Islamabad and Lahore have issued orders directing the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) to ensure anti-judiciary programming is not broadcast on television.

Human Rights Watch Asia Director Brad Adams says the “curbs on free expression” should be immediately revoked and that judges do not have “special immunity from criticism.”

The Lahore High Court has ordered PEMRA to ensure the implementation of a stay order, which expires Thursday, against the airing of anti-judicial programming. That follows the Islamabad High Court's issuing of a restraining order in October banning such content.

PEMRA said on November 13 that it is committed to ensuring the freedom of expression, but that nowhere is “unbridled freedom” allowed to harm state institutions.

The regulatory authority further said it has urged its licensees to “exercise self-regulation” in the larger national interest.

Human Rights Watch says Pakistani judges have shown the ability to hold the government accountable, but will lose credibility if they “fight against scrutiny and accountability of the judiciary itself.”

The group says journalists have reported being informally advised by judicial authorities that they would face contempt of court charges if they criticized or commented unfavorably about judges or judicial decisions.

Meanwhile, the Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for a failed assassination attempt on a prominent television host Monday.

Taliban spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan said the group targeted Geo TV's Hamid Mir because they felt he was working against Islam.

Police defused a half kilogram of explosives attached to the bottom of Mir's car. The government is offering a reward of $500,000 for anyone with information about the bomb.