Journalists can't be compelled to disclose source -Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Paksitan Press Foundtion

Journalists can’t be compelled to disclose source

ISLAMABAD: Journalists cannot be compelled to disclose their secret source of information in a court even if they are asked to appear in the witness box, held the Supreme Court Commission on the NICL scam in a historic decision while dismissing Interior Minister Rehman Malik’s appeal against The News journalist on Friday.

The country’s independent judiciary again upheld the Constitution, rule and freedom of press and PPP government’s latest attack against the media independence was simply gone under the drain.

The Supreme Court has constituted a commission comprising Justice Ghulam Rabbani to probe the complaints of political intervention into the investigations of the NICL scam. Additional Director General FIA Zafar Qureshi, who was investigating the case, was removed from his position in FIA again and again besides creating many other hindrances to sabotage the investigation process of looting of billions of rupees of public money in order to save the skin of a powerful and mighty politician involved in the plundering.

The commission has summoned Zafar Qureshi, Interior Minister, Secretary Interior, Attorney General for Pakistan and five journalists, Shakeel Anjum, Abdul Sattar Khan, Usman Manzoor, Ahmad Noorani and Asad Kharal to file their replies on the matter. The journalists were summoned to give affidavits having evidences to support their news stories which they had filed showing big deal of political intervention into the investigations of the NICL scam.

After the submission of affidavits, the journalists were called for cross examination and after the cross examination of four journalists, The News journalist Ahmad Noorani was asked by the lawyer of Rehman Malik to disclose the source of information of his story in which it was stated that Malik summoned Zafar Qureshi to his official residence on Sunday, July 3, 2011, simply one day after the apex court restored him on his position in FIA, and gave him four options.

These four options included that Zafar Qureshi should himself inform the court that he could not continue with the case investigations because of his personal reasons, go on long leave, go abroad or if all these are not possible, then acquit the accused from the NICL case. Noorani refused to disclose his source of his information because of journalists’ professional ethics and principles followed all over the world including Pakistan. Constitutions of national and international journalists’ bodies, international conventions and judgments of international courts had declared maintaining confidentiality of secret sources of information as an integral part of freedom of press and information.

Article 19 of the Constitution of Pakistan ensuring the freedom of press as basic right was also quoted. Noorani faced 13 hearings simply on this one question in the last three months and gave his view in consultation of all the senior journalists of the country. Top legal and constitutional expert Abid Hassan Manto and Salman Akram Raja were also consulted to give response to the court.

Attorney General for Pakistan Maulvi Anwarul Haq argued that though journalists have privilege not to be compelled to disclose their source of information yet if they are summoned in the witness box, they are bound to reply all the questions asked to them in cross examination under Section 15 of Qanun-e-Shahadat Act and thus are bound to disclose their source in the witness box. The attorney general held that the commission was constituted by the competent court and thus by the definition given in clause 2(1)a it is a court of law and thus Qanun-e-Shahadat Act will have to be implied.

However, the commission did not allow the appeal of Rehman Malik’s lawyer and thus declared that a journalist could not be compelled to disclose the source of his information even if he was asked to appear in the witness box. The commission held that detailed reasons of the decision will be recorded in the report of the inquiry commission.

Source: The News