Pemra Authorised To Probe Financial Resources Of Electronic Media: Javed Jabbar
KARACHI: Javed Jabbar, member of the Media Commission appointed by the Supreme Court, has refuted claims of the Pemra officials that they have not made allegations against a media channel for running foreign-funded programmes.
In a statement issued here on Thursday, he referred to the statement attributed to PEMRA as published in leading newspapers on July 31. He said he is making this statement in his ‘individual capacity’ as member of the Media Commission.
He said Pemra officials have made two incorrect claims: 1) “That during its meeting with the Media Commission, PEMRA officials did not make allegations to the effect that certain private media outlets in the country receive foreign funding. And 2) That it is not (in) PEMRA’s mandate to investigate the source o f funding of private electronic media.”
During the meeting with the Media Commission held in Islamabad on February 14, Pemra was represnted by five officials: Pemra Chairman M Rashid; Executive Member Dr A Jabbar; Ashfaq Jumani, DG, Licensing; Sohail Ahmed, secretary; and Nasir, Legal Wing. The Media Commission comprised Justice (R) Nasir Aslam Zahid as chairman and Javed Jabbad as member. The secretary of the commission, former federal secretary Salim Gul Shaikh was also present. The observation made by the Pemra officials were noted by hand, both by the member, and by the secretary. The chairman also made occasional notes by hand, said the statement.
It said there was no tape recording made of the observations and discussion. During the observations made by the Pemra team, specific reference was made to certain private media outlets and TV channels. In one particular case, names and estimated amounts were cited by the Pemra team as being foreign funds allegedly received by a particular media group and/or its related entities for the production and projection of certain programmes, it said.
It said the complete text of Parts One and Two of the Media Commission’s Report is available on the website of the Supreme Court. (www.supremecourt.gov.pk/web/.
In Part Two of the report, in the section covering Team of Reference no B concerning Pemra, the Commission’s Report reproduced, virtually verbatim from notes made as per details above, the claims made by Pemra.
To separate these claims and remarks by Pemra from the observation and recommendations by the Commission, all the remarks by Pemra are placed in italics. A similar treatment is given to remarks made by other entities which met the Commission in this context e.g. the Pakistan Broadcasters Association, the Cable Operators Association, others.
Javed Jabbar stated that on page 103 of Part Two of the Report, in item T, the claim about reported foreign funding for certain programmes having been received by a particular media group is reproduced exactly as stated by the Pemra team to the Media Commission.
It is correct that, at a later stage, in the eleven-page section dealing with Pemra (given as an Annexure to the Commission’s Report) in the document submitted to the Media Commission by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, there is no repetition of the above claim of alleged foreign funding.
However, the fact is that the claim was made verbally by Pemra. As per a well established universally acknowledged principle, oral statements made before a court or a commission appointed by a court are to be considered true and valid expressions of fact or opinion.
Each page of the Media Commission’s Report as submitted to the Supreme Court was reviewed in detail by the chairman and member of the Commission and initialed by both, in the presence of the secretary before being conveyed to the registrar of the SC.
It said that it is deeply regrettable that, at a subsequent stage, Pemra has denied claims made earlier. It is entirely the discretion of the SC to consider appropriate further action in this regard.
Javed Jabbar stated that with regard to the second element of the statement by Pemra as published on July 31 to the effect that it is not in Pemra’s mandate to investigate the sources of funding for private media: this claim is also non-factual.
Attention is invited to Section 25 of the Pemra Ordinance 2002 as amended by the Pemra (Amendment) Act 2007 titled “Certain persons not (to) be granted license”. Its Section D reads: “A licence shall not be granted to: any person funded or sponsored by a foreign government or organisation.”
The credentials and claims about funding sources made by every applicant for a licence from Pemra are subject to comprehensive scrutiny and investigation by Pemra itself and by other concerned authorities and entities, including intelligence agencies.
It is therefore untenable to state that it is not in PEMRA’s mandate to investigate the sources of funding of private electronic media, both at the time of application for a license, and during the use of licenses by successful applicants.
The report by the Media Commission, formulated after extensive consultation, puts forward several recommendations for basic changes in Pemra to make it authentically autonomous and independent of partisan Governmental control. In the end, Javed Jabbar hoped that this lamentable episode of unfounded denial does not divert attention from the urgent need for the reform of Pemra.