Parameters for media accountability case
ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court carved out on Monday the contours on which petitions regarding media accountability initiated at the behest of some television anchors would be decided.
“It is a critical petition and we are clear about its ramifications,” Justice Jawwad S. Khawaja said while heading a two-judge bench that clubbed another petition filed by Syed Adil Gilani of the Transparency International (TI) to be heard along with the main plea on Sept 27.
The TI petition deals with the government grant of Rs320 million to an advertising agency, Midas, allegedly to influence media houses.
The bench expressed its surprise over the reported turnover of the agency that exceeds the billion rupee mark and said it could only match the income of agencies situated in New York’s Madison Square.
Despite this, the advertising agency paid only Rs25,000 tax over the past five years and its audited accounts for 2011 and 2012 were missing from the records submitted by the Information Ministry in its reply.
The outline that the court set for the parties to advance their arguments focuses mainly on the formation and composition of a commission and its terms of reference.
Discussions will also take place on whether a code of conduct for the electronic media should be devised and if any existing code is consistent with the statutory provisions and relevant rules. Whether the code is legal or illegal from the point of view of media practitioners and professionals; whether it should be self-regulatory and whether the court should get involved in the matter at all, are other questions to be taken up.
The most contentious matter, the court observed, was still the issue regarding the secret fund and its supplementary heads.
Advocate Muneer A. Malik, appearing as amicus curiae, emphasised that before entering into the issue of forming the commission the court should discuss the role of the media by laying down a framework on Articles 19 and 19A (freedom of speech), the interplay between the two articles and the duties and rights of the media.
The court ordered the ministry and the Securities and Exchange Commission to come up with complete documentation so that formal hearing of the petitions could commence.