LAHORE: The Lahore High Court on Wednesday restrained public functionaries from exposing under-trial/custody suspects to media coverage and also ordered the Pemra to ensure privacy of the citizens is not invaded by any person carrying camera or mic.

Justice Ali Zia Bajwa passed the order on a petition challenging the practice of recording interviews/confessional statements of suspects by the mainstream media and Vloggers.

The judge observed that the right to privacy is as important as the right to freedom of expression and speech, rather in some situations it becomes more important and should be protected accordingly.

He said the right to privacy means the right of an individual to control dissemination of information about him/her.

The judge emphasized that the right to privacy in other words can be said ‘to be let alone’.

“No one can be allowed to buy a camera and a mic and invade the privacy of citizens without any legal justification,” the judge remarked.

The prosecutor general of Punjab, federal and provincial law officers unanimously stated that recording of interviews/confessional statements of any suspect amounts to hampering fair trial as guaranteed under Article 10-A of Constitution and the same should not be allowed.

The amicus curiae also sought a ban on such practice.

A counsel appearing on behalf of Pemra stated that under the provisions of Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act 2016 (Peca), taking a photograph or making a video of any person and displaying or distributing the same without the consent of that person in a manner that harms him comes with the definition of cyber stalking, which is a criminal offence punishable with imprisonment and fine.

He submitted that the Pemra was ready to take action against any person who violates the provision of Peca.

Advocate Vishal Riaz Shakir, the petitioner, presented some video clips before the court which showed people with cameras and mics in their hands capturing citizens on camera without their permission and asking them about their driving licenses etc in the presence of the public functionaries who were legally empowered to do so.

Justice Bajwa observed that such excess on the part of the cameramen having mics in their hands was a glaring intrusion into the right to privacy, respect and dignity of a person as guaranteed under the Constitution.

“No one can be forced to reply to the questions put by these unauthorized persons,” the judge maintained.

The judge said it was unfortunate that public functionaries also facilitated and protected such illegal practice. He said videos are posted/displayed on different TV channels and social media, which results in humiliation and disrespect to the targeted citizens.

The judge sought a report from the Pemra chairman regarding action taken against the illegal practices challenged in the petition.

He also ordered the FIA to submit a report to explain its role in curbing the menace of cyber stalking.

In an injunctive order, the judge directed all the public functionaries not to facilitate any illegality which violates the right to privacy, dignity and respect of a citizen.

The judge warned strict action against any government official if found enabling or aiding such violation of fundamental rights.

Earlier, Capital City Police Officer of Lahore filed a report about instructions issued to all concerned to refrain them from exposing or letting the under-custody suspects to media platforms.

The judge would resume the next hearing on Dec 20.

Source: Dawn

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