ISLAMABAD Nov 27 An international human rights
group urged Pakistan judges on Tuesday to stop using their
powers to censor media critical of the judiciary.
Over the last two months, judges have threatened several
media executives and journalists with contempt of court if they
published reports criticizing the judiciary, New York-based
Human Rights Watch said.
"Judges have no special immunity from criticism," said Brad
Adams, the group's Asia director. "Unless they want to be seen
as instruments of coercion and censorship, they should
immediately revoke these curbs on free expression."
Last week, an Islamabad High Court judge extended an order
to the media regulatory authority to halt the airing of
programming critical of Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry and the
Supreme Court officials could not immediately be reached for
The judiciary, led by Chaudhry, has become a power centre in
Pakistan's young democracy that has been ruled by the military
for more than half its 65-year history.
Critics contend Chaudhry has pitted the Supreme Court
against civilian and military leaders, distracting attention
from the urgent task of reforming a broken judiciary.
The Supreme Court has about 20,000 cases pending and there
is a backlog of about 1.4 million cases nationally, according to
a U.S. State Department report.
Of those cases that reach court, only 5-10 percent result in
conviction, according to a 2010 report by the International
Crisis Group on reforming the justice system.
Prosecutors are underpaid and overwhelmed and judges rely
almost entirely on oral statements rather than physical
(Reporting by Randy Fabi; Editing by Nick Macfie)