Appointment of Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority chief challenged in Islamabad High Court
ISLAMABAD: Appointment of chairman of the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) has been challenged in the Islamabad High Court (IHC).
Barrister Akram Sheikh has filed an application on the behalf of Independent Media Corporation (Pvt.) Limited, praying to the court that the notification of Chaudhry Rasheed Ahmed, the PEMRA Chairman, be set aside as illegal exercise of power, void ab initio and mala fide.
The court has been told that a petition was already pending regarding appointment of a neutral and fair person as Chairman PEMRA with the consensus/consultation of all the stakeholders.
“That on 22.01.2013, this Hon’ble Court had while fixing the Petitioner’s stay application on 28.01.2013 issued notices to the respondents namely Federation of Pakistan through Secretary Information and PEMRA through its Chairman which were duly served upon them within three days. To the utter shock and dismay of the petitioner, the respondent no. 1 (Secretary of Information) had, instead of filing its comments on the petitioner’s stay application or instant writ petition, just one day before the hearing date, i.e. in the late hours on Saturday which is a public holiday, issued a notification for his own appointment as Chairman PEMRA.”
The application describes the matter saying ‘That let alone the core contention of the petitioner that Chairman PEMRA is to be appointed after consensus/consultation of all the stakeholders, the respondents have blatantly violated the order of the Supreme Court passed in C.P No. 53/2012 on 15.01.2013 wherein the Hon’ble Supreme Court of Pakistan had directed to appoint Chairman PEMRA in a transparent manner. But Ch Rasheed was appointed in such a non-transparent way that the whole country learnt about this appointment on Saturday night through a press release announcing the appointment that was already made.’
The petition reads: “That Chaudhry Rasheed is a representative and permanent employee of the government who is bound by the discipline of its employer and as such cannot be expected to ensure impartiality of judgement while regulating the ‘fourth pillar of the state’, the media, which would be constantly criticising his employer government for its shortcomings and corruption. This being the case, the petitioner apprehends that this appointee would be more biased and partial than any of the previous Chairman, PEMRA (including ex-Acting Chairman namely Dr. Jabbar) or even Managing Director of PTV. That the Hon’ble Supreme Court of Pakistan has set up a special commission with Terms of Reference that whether after the incorporation of Article 19-A in the Constitution of Pakistan, Ministry of Information should continue or be abolished. However, the Secretary of that very Ministry (Respondent No. 3) has himself become regulator of media which the Hon’ble Supreme Court wants to be independent and free.
That in addition to the above, the government’s hasty action of Saturday shows that the petitioner’s contentions and fears are correct, i.e. the government controls media through Chairman PEMRA as otherwise the government would have conceded this petition instead of appointing Respondent No. 3 (Secretary of Ministry of Information) or at least would have waited for hearing on Monday. Unless the said notification is suspended, the government will be effectively controlling the media industry specially during the fast approaching general elections of the country.”