Mediation reports coercion against Geo in Karachi, rural Sindh -Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Paksitan Press Foundtion

Mediation reports coercion against Geo in Karachi, rural Sindh

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Thursday adjourned for six weeks hearing of two identical petitions against the closure of Geo News and ARY news.

A three-member bench of the apex court comprising Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, Justice Ghulam Rabbani and Justice Khalilur Rehman Ramday was hearing two identical petitions against the closure of Geo News and ARY News.

The court adjourned the hearing after Javed Jabbar a former caretaker Information Minister who was appointed as mediator by the apex court to monitor allocation of frequency to various private TV channels under Pemra rules and regulations submitted his report before the court. All the parties voluntarily accepted the outcome of the mediation while Muhammad Akram Sheikh, learned counsel for the petitioners also submitted before the court that he has accepted the outcome of the mediation.

Dr Shahid Masood from ARY News also appeared before the court and complained of receiving life threat from the government including Interior Minister Rehman Malik.The court directed Secretary Interior to ensure protection of life and property of Dr Shahid Masood and adjourned the hearing for six weeks.Javed Jabbar, the mediator also appeared before the court and thanked the court for entrusting him with the responsibility of mediation with the consent of all parties.

He assured the court that the process of mediation has been conducted with complete independence and impartiality.In his separate observations from the unanimously agreed outcome of the mediation, Javed Jabbar observed that a new and potent threat has emerged to the legal framework within which licensed Satellite TV channels and Cable TV operators are functioning in Pakistan.

“This threat is in the form of increased and abundant availability in markets of smuggled, illegal DTH (Direct-To-Home) boxes from India which give viewers access to hundreds of Indian and foreign Satellite TV channels,” he added and said that these unlicensed channels are rapidly displacing the viewership, advertising revenue and stability of the legally operative TV system in Pakistan. He stressed that this issue also requires urgent consideration and appropriate action.

He submitted that the valuable roles of electronic media, Cable TV operators and Pemra, with some qualifications, in advancing freedom of media and choice deserve great appreciation.

“Yet comprehensive review and reform of the electronic media sector is required, including amendments to existing legislation to make Pemra a truly independent regulatory authority directly accountable to a bipartisan forum of parliament, to reflect the emergence of new broadcast and distribution technologies and to ensure that the public interest rather than only commercial or political interests determine the direction of media development in Pakistan,” he said.

According to the outcome of the mediation, all litigants and stakeholders agreed that either due to violence, threats of violence, lack of timely preventive actions by the local authorities or coercive pressures verbally conveyed, Cable TV operators in Karachi and some locations in rural Sindh were forced to remove the ARY News and Geo News channels from their networks briefly during August, 2010.

All parties also agreed that the taking of strict notice by the Supreme Court of the disruption in transmission has proven to be a highly effective deterrent against future use of coercion, threats of violence, and violence itself against Cable TV operators and Satellite TV channels.

Similarly all the parties also agreed that there is a need for Pemra to promptly and effectively use the powers of enforcement and penalties given to it by the law, rules and regulations. To facilitate such actions, and Pemra in turn requires prompt, credible and practical support by the police and law enforcement authorities in each location.

Likewise, a proposal by the Mediator to establish a Dispute Resolution Committee was unanimously agreed to by all parties. The proposed committee will comprise representatives of all stakeholders and will meet once a month to deal with issues as they arise or will meet whenever required to facilitate settlement of issues without resorting to litigation.
Source: The News