Contempt notices issued to ARY News CEO, anchor | Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Pakistan Press Foundation

Contempt notices issued to ARY News CEO, anchor

Pakistan Press Foundation

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Tuesday issued contempt notices to ARY News anchor Mubasher Lucman and chief executive Salman Iqbal for airing a programme that contained defamatory and scandalous allegations against members of the superior judiciary.

A three-judge bench, headed by Justice Ejaz Afzal, also regretted the government’s slackness in appointing a full-time head of the media regulatory body.

The bench was specially constituted to take up a case pertaining to the ‘Khara Such’ TV show from May 29, 2014, hosted by Mr Lucman, where the anchor had made a “number of slanderous and defamatory allegations against Justice Jawwad S. Khawaja”. In the show, Mr Lucman had alleged that Justice Khawaja had a close personal relationship with Mir Shakeelur Rahman, owner of the Jang Group, and also alleged that Justice Khawaja’s wife had sold a piece of land in Lahore to the Punjab government at higher-than-market rates.

The allegations were televised after Justice Khawaja took up a petition, moved by Geo TV, asking for an immediate end to what they called “a hate campaign” against the channel.

At the last hearing on June 4, the Supreme Court had declared that it would proceed “dispassionately and independently” in the matter. The court had also ordered the Supreme Court registrar to submit transcripts of the programme, on the same day.

But when the case was taken up on Tuesday, the court noted that no transcripts were produced by the registrar. But another transcript of the show was available on court record.

A look at the transcripts on the record shows that the anchorperson of ‘Khara Such’ said many things which were not called for and thus, prima facie, requires the initiation of proceeding under the Contempt of Court Ordinance V of 2003, Justice Ejaz Afzal said in his order and ordered Lucman and the ARY chief executive to appear in court on Sept 15.

Also on Tuesday, Deputy Attorney General Khawaja Ahmed Hassan presented a report on behalf of the information ministry, explaining that the prime minister had appointed a committee to review the code of conduct for the electronic media.

But Justice Ijaz Chaudhry observed that the court was not concerned with committees but rather wanted action from the government, such as the appointment of a new chairman for the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) — a post that has been vacant for several months.

The government’s tardiness in appointing the head of the regulatory authority has yielded an unregulated and unfettered media, which can run slanderous programmes against anybody but no-one could question them, the judge observed.