Supreme Court orders payment of salary to institute of regional studies staff
ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court altered on Tuesday its earlier restraining order under which secret funds of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting had been frozen. The order had stopped the disbursement of salary of employees working in the Institute of Regional Studies (IRS), a government-funded think tank.
A two-judge bench comprising Justice Jawwad S. Khawaja and Justice Khilji Arif Hussain ordered the government to immediately release the salary of IRS employees.
The bench had taken up a set of petitions regarding media accountability initiated at the behest of some television anchors. Advocate Zulfikar Maluka, representing the information ministry, said the IRS employees had been working without salary since Sept 6 when the Supreme Court issued the restraining
He also clarified that the total budgetary allocation for the ministry’s special fund was Rs140 million, and not Rs4 billion, of which Rs100 million was for secret expenditure, Rs9 million for service and Rs31 million for the IRS.
He said details about the expenditure of the first two heads of the secret fund could not be discussed in the open court, but if the court so desired a briefing could be given in camera.
The court also considered a petition filed by the Press Association of the Supreme Court on behalf of its president Ghulam Nabi Yousafzai seeking an assurance from the court to end exploitation of working journalists.
The court issued notices to the federal government, provincial governments and Pemra on a petition filed by Rawalpindi High Court Bar Association president Sheikh Ahsanuddin. It alleged that the public exchequer had been used by governments for election campaigns through the media which was not permissible under the law.
Advocate Munir A. Malik, representing DawnNews, contended that TV viewers had the right to know whether an opinion being presented was a paid advertisement or a fair view. They also had the right to know if news had been distorted in someone’s favour.
He said a news presenter could project any opinion as long as it was confined to the law and not seditious, but it was unethical to become a paid announcer of a political party. A presenter should not deceive a viewer into believing concocted news.
“There should be difference between news and a commercial advertisement,” the counsel said.