SC asked why channels maligning judges not being banned: Pemra chief
ISLAMABAD: Pemra Chairman Absar Alam Saturday said the Supreme Court had called for a strict action against the channels maligning the judiciary and asked why their licenses were not being revoked, referring to Dr. Shahid Masood’s talk show.
He told a news conference here that the apex court had asked why only fines of a few lakhs were being imposed, as these few lakhs could not restore their honour and respect.
Absar Alam said he had informed the apex court that the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority was trying to be lenient, as the whole channel and its staff should not be punished in such cases and only the culprit be punished instead.
Hence it was like backfiring of the case for the channel.
The matter also showed severity of its nature that without naming of the judge the Pemra banned the ARY show after the apex court asked it again and again why was it going lenient towards the channels, which were maligning people (pagriyan uchhaal rahay hein) and running a malicious campaign against the judiciary before and after the kidnapping of Awais Shah (the son of SHC CJ).
This scenario led to the summoning of Pemra chairman and he was asked why these channels’ licenses were not cancelled when they were running a campaign against the superior judiciary.
However, Absar said they had submitted before the apex court that it would be harsh to close a channel for the mistake of one person.
“So give us time and we would take action according to the law. This was a severe accusation that a kidnapping was done of the son of a prominent person… because the person took money for something and he didn’t do it.”
The channel has a history replete with legal issues, concerning the judiciary. Needless to say, this is not the first time the channel has made accusations against the judiciary, as it did so before and then apologised afterwards.
The channel, however, has challenged the Pemra ban order in the Islamabad High Court. The court did not grant stay and the ban would be in place from August 15, whereas the case will be heard on August 17 in the IHC.
The maligning of courts was prohibited under Article 19 of the Constitution. However, allegations against the judiciary have to be sent to the Supreme Judicial Council.
The courts are given this extra protection in the Constitution so that the judges are not politicized and the judiciary is protected and not pressured into making decisions based on pressure tactics. Moreover, under Article 68 even in Parliament, the conduct of judges cannot be discussed.
Absar Alam said Gen Pervez Musharraf allowed to telecast Indian content.
Pemra will begin issuing licenses to companies for establishing and operating Direct-to-Home (DTH) services in Pakistan from October. He noted the first DTH license would be issued in October, which would, among other things, help promote national language and culture.
He said the services of all illegal Indian DTH available in the Pakistani would be stopped. A Pemra meeting a day earlier decided to go for a crackdown on illegal Indian DTH in the country.
Absar Alam explained measures were being taken to ensure transparency within the organisation so that no one could point finger at it and added if anyone had objection to Pemra’s decisions, courts could be approached.
“The Pemra respects the court decisions,” he maintained.
He said both Pemra and the media were important for each other, saying everyone wanted an independent Pemra along with free media, which could only be possible when the media respected the decisions of the authority.
He contended that there should be no criticism of Pemra just because of an individual. He said in developed countries the media was free, but it showed responsibility.
Replying to questions, he conceded that to ban a channel or a programme or even to impose fine on a television channel was a difficult decision to make.
Absar also noted criticism and added that he had been repeatedly calling for strict adherence to the code of conduct for the last eight months.
About the Pemra decision to ban Dr. Shahid Masood’s talk show for 45 days, the Pemra chief said he was summoned by a five-member bench of the Supreme Court, which wanted to know what was the authority doing against the anti-judiciary campaign with regard to the kidnapping of the son of Sindh Chief Justice.
He noted that on the basis of a rumor allegation was leveled against the Sindh High Court Chief Justice and it was at the time when his entire family was in trauma.
“I had appeared before the bench and presented the relevant record before it,” he noted.
Absar Alam said he faced questions at every forum as to why people were being allowed to play with the dignity of others (at TV shows) and why harsh decisions were not being taken by Pemra on this count.
He pointed out that the owners of media outlets got their machinery and equipment, including camera, insured and they should also take such measures for the protection and welfare of their workers.
Absar Alam said people in remote areas would benefit from the DTH services, which would also help improve the standard of programmes telecast by the electronic media.
DTH is a digital satellite service that provides television viewing services directly to subscribers through satellite transmission anywhere in the country.
The signals are digital by nature and are received directly from the satellite. The digital signals provide optimum quality in all features and make viewing an absolute pleasure.
Absar Alam was confident that the electronic media would follow the code of conduct and the owners initiate programmes for improving the professional skills of journalists.