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The Lahore High Court on Friday put a ban on media coverage of all kind of protests held on the Mall Road, and directed the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) to ensure the ban.
The court was hearing petitions against a prolonged protest/sit-in by employees of Punjab Land Record Authority (PLRA) on the Mall Road.
The court observed, "The right to peaceful protest and procession is a fundamental right of all the citizens in a democratic country like us. But unfortunately, this right has been continuously misunderstood as a license to create inconvenience to the general public".
Earlier, PLRA counsel told the court that the protestors were contractual employees and they had been demanding regularization of their services and increase of salaries.
He said contracts of several protesting employees had already terminated and action under Punjab Essential Services Act 1958 had also been initiated against them.
However, the counsel stated that in order to call off the protest the authority will negotiate with them and in case of failure stern action shall be taken against the willful absentees and their contracts will be terminated.
DIG Operations also told the court that the police was complying with the previous court's judgments in letter and spirit. He said the police had been putting all out effort to ensure smooth flow of traffic in the city especially on the Mall Road.
He pointed out that the government through a policy formulated in 2012 had declared the area from Mian Mir Bridge to PMG Chowk a red zone and designated alternate space at Nasir Bagh and Attique Stadium for holding protests. He said appropriate legislation was required to avoid protests on Mall Road.
The DIG also presented list of FIRs lodged against the persons holding protests in the red zone area.
A section officer of Home Department said the government had prepared draft of "Red Zone Act" to deal with the issue. He sought time to present a copy of the draft before or on next hearing on November 25.
The court directed the official concerned at the PLRA to negotiate and resolve the issue with their employees and to call off protest by 2 pm (Friday). The court also directed the authority to take stern action against the employees continuing the protest after 2 pm and also terminate their contracts.
The court also directed the Pemra to ensure that no television channel will make coverage to the protest being held on Mall Road.
The petitions were filed by Judicial Activism Panel and Mall Road Traders Association.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2019