Free for all in electronic media as Pemra stays headless -Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Paksitan Press Foundtion

Free for all in electronic media as Pemra stays headless

Pakistan Press Foundation

ISLAMABAD: At a time when the anti-government forces are getting united, using the electronic media for their objectives and openly announcing the toppling of the democratic government, the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) is not only dysfunctional but also headless.

The Islamabad High Court (IHC) has ordered the government not to appoint a new chairman till a decision on an appeal filed by an ex-chairman Pemra is announced. In compliance with a Supreme Court’s judgment, the federal government appointed an acting chairman till the appointment of a permanent chief. However, the same bench of the IHC suspended the newly-appointed acting chairman. The Supreme Court’s judgment on December 20, 2012 clearly allowed the appointment of an “acting chairman” Pemra though for “shortest-possible period till ‘proper selection’ of next regular chairman Pemra and till regular appointment. Not only Pemra, many government institutions are also waiting for decisions by the superior judiciary to start functioning.

On Sunday, during a rally to announce the toppling of the democratic government, the participants raised slogans “electronic media zindabad” and the person asking the people to kill policemen and topple the government, Tahirul Qadri, warned the print media to mend its ways. Different channels continued to air the news of the killing of eight workers of PAT but none was successful in disclosing the name of a single person who was killed. This is aimed at creating chaos in the country while as a matter of fact, Tahirul Qadri’s Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) and Sunni Ittehad Council workers attacked the police in Bhera, using bombs and firearms and killed one policeman and injured dozens. However, most electronic outlets continued reporting of imaginary killing of PAT workers without highlighting the injuries caused to hundreds of policemen.

After the IHC stopped the federal government from appointing a permanent chairman, the president ordered giving the charge of acting chairman Pemra to Pervaiz Rathore in compliance with the Supreme Court’s judgment in the Media Commission Case, which clearly says that though there is no mention of “acting chairman” in the Pemra law but the federal government can appoint an Acting Chairman when there is no chairman and till the time of the appointment of new chairman Pemra but the same must be for the shortest possible time. In the present situation, the IHC has barred the government from appointing a new chairman till the decision of the case. The Supreme Court passed judgments in the Media Commission Case in the Constitution Petition No.105/12 along with CMAs-3795 & 3798 of 2012, HRC No.23957-S/2012 and Const. P. 53/2012. AND Constitution Petition No.104 of 2012 & CMA 3464/12 and Constitution Petition No.117/12.

Following are the relevant paras December 20, 2012 judgment under which Dr Jabbar was restrained from functioning as Acting Chairman, a position he was holding for the last two years but at the same time the court also allowed the appointment of an Acting Chairman.

“It has also been pointed out to us that there is no permanent Chairman of Pemra and incumbent is an acting chairman for the last about two years. Relevant provisions of Pemra i.e. Section 6 of Pemra does not contain any such provision, however, it is understandable that temporarily for a shortest possible period acting chairman can be appointed to find suitable person to be appointed as permanent chairman. In this behalf, notice be issued to the secretary, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting to appear and explain on behalf of the government as to why the permanent chairman has not been appointed so far,” the judgment said.

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