Media accountability: Details of secret media fund submitted by journalists
ISLAMABAD: Senior journalists Absar Alam and Hamid Mir rejected earlier claims by the information ministry and its counsel and presented details of spending under the controversial secret fund on Thursday. Speaking to the media after the hearing, Alam said “we submitted details of supplementary grants given by the ministry which are not mentioned in the budget”.
Mir added that both the petitioners had presented facts and figures during the hearing, which revealed that Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira’s lawyer Abid Saqi had misguided the court and called for immediate action against the lawyer.
The Supreme Court has now directed the auditor general (AG) to present records of the information ministry for the past three years after
Citing figures which were presented to the apex court regarding the misuse of public money, Alam stated that Rs123.8 million were allocated to a special budget publicity campaign, Rs300 million were given as aid to APNS (All Pakistan Newspapers Society), Rs440 million were allocated for various publicity campaigns used for government propaganda, Rs12.8 million were accounted for as secret service expenditure, Rs500 million were given to advertising agencies and TV channels, Rs390 million was given to Azad Kashmir TV, Rs900 million to PTV Multan, Rs25 million to Press Council of Pakistan and Rs300 million to Radio Pakistan.
Mir briefed that the court had been appraised of the fact that the central office of APNS, being constructed in Karachi, was funded by the information ministry.
He added that “the credibility of the media in Pakistan has been damaged by a few anchors who were not journalists.” Terming such elements “black sheep”, Mir said that they were being bought by the government and as a result “fingers are being pointed at us too because of their corruption.”
Decrying the corruption in media houses, Alam said that their petition was a war against those media owners who have become agents of the government and are using taxpayers’ money to fill their coffers.
Meanwhile, during its proceedings, the bench comprising Justice Khilji Arif Hussain and Justice Jawwad Khawaja, once again ordered Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) and Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) to present the record of advertising agency Midas, which has been at the centre of the latest controversy.
The SC bench noted the absence of SECP officials and set Friday (tomorrow) as the deadline for the commission to produce record otherwise the SECP chairman would be summoned for next hearing scheduled on September 17.
Meanwhile, Information and Broadcasting Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira on Thursday said that only a fund of Rs12 million was at the discretion of the information secretary which is spent on the welfare of deserving journalists and their families. This amount is released to the ministry in four quarters while the audit department releases the next installment after getting a detailed report about the spending of the previous installment. Kaira argued that the claims of Chaudhry Nisar are against facts as every fiscal transfer is kept in the record of the finance division to thwart secrecy.