'Bar airing of malicious content against judiciary'
Lahore: A Pakistani court has directed the country's media regulator to bar all TV channels from airing programmes or talk shows that contain "malicious" content against judges and the judiciary.
Justice Nasir Saeed Sheikh of the Lahore High Court passed the order while hearing a petition seeking action against parliamentarians for making malicious statements against judiciary.
He ordered the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority to ensure that TV channels did not beam anything against the judiciary.
Azhar Siddique, the counsel for the petitioner, alleged during a hearing yesterday that many politicians and parliamentarians were involved in a campaign against the Supreme Court Chief Justice and other judges.
He claimed all TV news channels and newspapers had been airing and publishing the statements of lawmakers without verifying their allegations.
Media commentators and politicians expressed surprise at the court's order, especially as the media had played a key role in backing the judiciary and the lawyers' community in a standoff with former military ruler Pervez Musharraf.
Politicians said the High Court's order appeared to be a reaction to the corruption allegations levelled against Arsalan Iftikhar, the son of Supreme Court Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry.
The top judge and his son have been criticised after Arsalan Iftikhar attempted to bar the National Accountability Bureau from investigating the corruption charges against him.
Acting on a petition from the Chief Justice's son, the apex court set up a one-man commission to look into the issue.
Several politicians and rights activists have questioned the "partisan" stand taken by the Chief Justice and the Supreme Court in Iftikhar's case.
PPP lawmaker Faisal Raza Abidi, considered to be close to President Asif Ali Zardari, targeted the Chief Justice and demanded his resignation on several talk shows.
Referring to the allegations made by Abidi, Siddique claimed the mechanism for holding superior judges accountable and for their removal from office were laid down in the Constitution.
Forcibly compelling the judges to resign through a coordinated media campaign was unconstitutional and an attempt to ruin the judiciary, he claimed.
However, a senior PPP leader, who did not want to be named, argued that judiciary was acting in a biased manner.
"The order shows the judges are not ready to tolerate the positive criticism that is pouring in. They want the media to only praise them and they are happy as long as the bashing of politicians continues," the leader said.
The PPP leader also questioned the Pakistani media's silence on the curbs imposed on it by the judiciary.