SC orders govts to clear media houses’ dues in 30 days
ISLAMABAD – Clamping complete ban on self-projection advertisements by politicians, the three-member apex court bench headed by Chief Justice Saqib Nisar Wednesday directed federal and provincial governments to clear the pending dues of media houses on account of advertisements within one month’s time.
In another case relating to Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) autonomous status in conformity with the Article 19 of the constitution the same bench also sought recommendations from the federal government.
In a suo moto case, regarding self-projection of politicians through advertisements causing loss to public exchequer, the top court banned such government advertisements which contain photos of political leaders.
The top court, however, ruled that the advertisements of government other than self-projection and without pictures of politicians are allowed to be published.
The court further issued notices to Pakistan Advertising Association to explain their view regarding mode of advertisements distribution by the government to media houses.
The directions were given after representatives of All Pakistan Newspaper Society (APNS) appeared before the bench and apprised the court regarding the issue of pending payments payable by the government.
Chief justice observed that three issues have to be addressed including guidelines, distribution criteria of advertisements and payment of funds.
The chief justice observed that in order to prevent pre-poll rigging pictures of political leaders in government-sponsored advertisements will not be allowed.
The chief justice expressed displeasure over the fact that provincial governments spent taxpayers’ money on massive advertisements.
Justice Ijazul Ahsan also observed such advertisements clearly constitute pre-poll rigging.
Meanwhile, in another case of Media Commission, the same bench expressed its determination to make the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) independent through in conformity with the Article 19 of the Constitution and independent appointments in the regulator.
The court also observed that prima facie the government is reluctant to implement the recommendations pertaining to independence of PEMRA.
Deciding to conduct the hearing on day-to-day basis, the top court directed the federal government to submit its suggestions as to how the PEMRA could be made an independent institution.
A three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar took up the case of Media Commission for hearing.
Yesterday’s hearing revolved around the Section 5 and 6 of PEMRA law, the powers of federal government and members of Authority and Article 19 of the Constitution, the Freedom of Speech.
The main petitioner in the instant case Hamid Mir apprised the bench that government has backed out of his earlier opinion regarding independence of PEMRA.
He contended that the government exercised its powers and off-aired all the TV channels during the Faizabad sit-in.
He argued against the Sections 5 and 6 of the PEMRA law stating that whenever the government wants to show its power it off-airs the channels and then refuses to on-air the channels on the pretext of lack of jurisdiction.
He pleaded before the bench to strike down the Sections 5 and 6 of the PEMRA law.
The Chief Justice expressed his concern and told Mir whether the structure of PEMRA would not collapse.
Mir responded that under Section 4 of the PEMRA law, the Authority has powers to make regulations.
Additional Attorney General (AAG) Rana Waqar apprised the bench that the recommendations of Media Commission have to be seen in a broader spectrum after the 18th amendment adding that the federal government also desires for independent media.
The Chief Justice observed that the court can examine a law which is contrary to the fundamental rights.
The law officer told that the government powers are prescribed in the PEMRA law.
To this, the Chief Justice observed that the government is not prepares to make PEMRA independent.
Justice Ijazul Ahsan inquired as to why the government wants to control PEMRA and media adding that PEMRA is a regulator and idea is that regulator must be independent.
He further observed as to why the government is adamant and keeping control and not showing confidence that PEMRA would weight more to Article 19 once the Authority itself become independent.
The Chief Justice observed that independence initiates from appointments. He also quoted example of appointment procedure of judges in superior court.