Government opinion sought on PEMRA’s denial
ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court asked the government on Monday to advise it whether to expunge an assertion, later denied by the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra), suggesting that a media house aired foreign-funded programmes.
A two-judge bench headed by Justice Tassaduq Hussain Jillani ordered Additional Attorney General Atiq Shah to seek instructions from the government and assist the court on the question when the hearing resumes after a fortnight.
The bench had taken up applications filed by anchorpersons Hamid Mir and Absar Alam requesting it to make public evidence in support of the allegations made by senior officers of Pemra that had been made part of a voluminous report issued by a two-member media commission headed by retired Justice Nasir Aslam Zahid.
The court asked the information secretary to submit detailed comments on the report.
The media commission was appointed by a bench headed by Justice Jawwad S. Khawaja on Jan 15 in response to petitions filed by the anchorpersons requesting the court to disclose the names of the beneficiaries of the ministry’s secret funds. The report and recommendations were submitted before the court on July 3.
The commission, after meeting Pemra Chairman Chaudhry Rashid Ahmad, Executive Director Dr Abdul Jabbar, Director General (Licensing) Ashfaq Jumani, General Manager (Legal) Nasir Ahmad and Secretary Suhail Ahmed, included unsubstantiated but serious allegations in the report.
“It was revealed that lot of funds was pouring into media outlets from abroad in the form of sponsorship and that the programme ‘Zara Sochieay’ had received sponsorship to the extent of Pounds Sterling 20 million,” it said.
It also mentioned the allegation that the ‘Aman ki Asha’ was being funded by a Norwegian NGO, Friends Without Borders, and that the footprints of this funding led to Indian sponsors, including the state television Doordarshan.
Later, Javed Jabbar, member of the commission, in an email to the court said that the allegations mentioned in the report had been levelled by the Pemra officials.
Advocate Zulfikar Maluka, who represented Pemra, told the court that a detailed reply had been submitted on behalf of the regulator, denying that the officials had levelled the allegations as mentioned in the media commission report. The written reply was also annexed with affidavits on behalf of the five officials against whom notices had been issued.
The bench noted that Pemra had failed to present any evidence or material to corroborate the allegations.
The court made it clear that it could not hold a trial on the matter and the anchorpersons, if aggrieved, could file a defamation suite or seek criminal proceedings in appropriate courts. But in case their positions had been vindicated they could accept the regrets offered by Pemra on the statement in good grace, it said.
Absar Alam agreed but said the journalists could be harmed because of the statement in view of the prevalent violence in the society.