An act of ‘censure': Supreme Court asks PTV to submit transcript of programme -Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Paksitan Press Foundtion

An act of ‘censure’: Supreme Court asks PTV to submit transcript of programme

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Tuesday directed Chairman Pakistan Television Corporation (PTV) to submit the transcript of its programme, reportedly arranged by Ministry of Information wherein the court was censured for directing Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) to restore uninterrupted broadcast of all news channels.

A three-member bench of Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, Justice Ghulam Rabbani and Justice Khalilur Rehman Ramday directed Chairman PTV to appear before the court on the next date of hearing and apprise him about the matter.

In addition, the court directed Chief Secretaries and IGs of the provinces to submit detailed reports on the subject. The court would hear the case on August 24. In addition, the court had ordered the chairman Pemra and the chief executive officers of the four cable operators/license holders to appear in person on next date of hearing (August 17) to explain why they had misguided the court by stating that law and order situation had forced the cable operators to block the broadcast of the two private channels.

The court had taken up two petitions. Earlier, on August 13, the court had grilled Pemra for disrupting telecast of two private news channels and directed its chairman to immediately restore the transmission. The court had also directed cable operators to appear before the court and explain suspension of transmission.

Advocate Akram Sheikh, counsel for one of the two petitioners, said that the Secretary Information had arranged a talk show at PTV to “censure” the order passed by the court on last hearing.

Khalid Anwer, who was representing 270 cable operators of Karachi, stated that it was an important case as it pertained to freedom of the media. “Any attack on media would be an attack on democracy. If you do not have an independent media, then you will not have a free democracy as well,” he added. He also clarified that Governor Punjab Salmaan Taseer had no nexus with Messrs WorldCall as he had sold out his shares.

Suspension of transmission is an offence which is cognisable and needs law making, observed the Chief Justice, adding, Chairman Pemra had made false and contradictory statements before the court. On last date of hearing, Malik Mushtaq, Chairman Pemra had denied suspension of transmission of any channel.

Justice Khalilur Rehman Ramday observed that no cable operator had the authority to blackout even for a second the transmission of any channel. The WorldCall had admitted the fact of having suspended the broadcast, he added. Anwer said that it all started after airing of an incident, which he said he did not want to narrate while terming it ‘Birmingham incident’ (hurling of shoe at President Asif Ali Zardari). Afterwards, he said, transmissions were suspended as cable operators were attacked.

“We want protection”. “If we have committed any crime then punish us. The suspension of channels was a widespread conspiracy and we are continuously receiving threats,” he added. Anwer said that cable operators’ infrastructure worth Rs 2 billion had been damaged by rioters in Karachi. Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry observed: “Then why is Pemra there? It should be shut down.”

Additional Attorney General KK Agha, who appeared for Chairman Pemra and Secretary Information, stated that the government believed in freedom of the media. “Yes, we have read out in newspapers that government believes in freedom of the media,” Justice Ramday remarked when he asked the Additional Attorney General: “If government believed in freedom of the media, then what was happening in Karachi a few days ago?” “This culture must end now and the culprit must go to jail,” observed Justice Ramday, adding, law has to take its course and we will deal with Chairman Pemra and everybody else involved in the matter according to the law.
Source: Business Recorder