Lahore, October 3
A Pakistani court has ordered the country’s media regulatory body to stop covering the alleged gang-rape of a woman on a highway last month following a request by the police that accused the media of creating a “hindrance” in the arrest of the prime suspect due to its “reckless coverage”.
The Pakistani-French woman was allegedly gang-raped by two men in front of her children at the Lahore-Sialkot motorway last month, triggering countrywide outrage. Police have arrested one suspect in the case, while prime accused Abid Malhi is still at large.
The Anti-Terrorism Court (ATC) on Friday ordered the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) to refrain from airing any content about the highway gang-rape incident on the request of Lahore police in which it took plea that they failed to arrest the prime suspect because of “reckless media coverage.”
“Pemra is hereby directed to stop the coverage of case FIR No.1369/2020 of Sept 9, 2020, offence under section 392, 376 (II), 427, 34 of PPC and 7 Anti-terrorism Act 1997, police station Gujjarpura, Lahore immediately on electronic media, print and social media,” wrote ATC Judge Arshad Hussain Bhutta in his verdict.
Following the court orders on Friday, the Pemra issued a directive to the TV channels to stop airing content related to the case.
Zulfiqar Cheema, who is investigating the case, had filed a petition before the ATC seeking a ban on media coverage of the incident.
“It is a heinous offence and the media is indulged in its reckless coverage. The TV channels reporting may damage and diminish the evidence so far collected by police. The media coverage of the incident has been creating hindrance in the arrest of the prime suspect,” he said.
Judge Bhutta admitted the contention of the investigation officer and observed that it was an offence relating to “sex and certainly due to media coverage the victim and his family will also be disgraced.”
The judge also noted that one of the suspects had been shifted to jail for identification and if media coverage of the case was not stopped, it would certainly diminish the evidentiary worth of the material collected by the prosecution.
Lahore police have made countless “failed” attempts to arrest prime suspect Abid Malhi and the delay has resulted in public anguish on social media against police. — PTI