SC seeks transcripts of TV shows that 'maligned' army
23 October, 2012
ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court has sought complete details along with transcripts of TV programmes before issuing notices to media persons and anchors on a petition moved against TV talk shows that allegedly maligned the armed forces and secret agencies after the Abbottabad operation and attack on Mehran Air Base in 2011.
A two-judge Supreme Court bench comprising Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry and Justice Jawwad S Khawaja has observed, "Questions raised on the functioning of the sensitive institutions does not attract contempt of court." Former deputy attorney general Sardar Muhammad Ghazi has approached the Supreme Court seeking its directions over what he perceives is as a malicious campaign launched by certain media outlets and journalists against the armed forces and the secret agencies.
In his petition, Ghazi had named the federal government through Information Ministry secretary, Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA), analyst and anchor Najam Sethi, talk show host Hamid Mir, and journalist Ijaz Haider as respondents. Muhammad Ibrahim Sathi, counsel for the petitioner, told the court that there are some restrictions on media relating to judiciary and armed forces of Pakistan. He however, said that now there is a general impression that there is no control over the freedom of media.
Sathi further said that after the Abbottabad operation and attack on Mehran Air Base, media criticised the intelligence agencies without any proof. During the course of the hearing, the counsel for the petitioner also provided proof of some programmes' aired by nine TV channels and cuttings of newspapers articles that criticised intelligence agencies. The court however, directed him to provide Urdu transcripts of those programmes by November 6 and adjourned the hearing.
Ghazi in his petition had stated that a section of print and electronic media has launched a calculated campaign to defame, degrade, demoralise and lower respect and dignity of the armed forces with ulterior designs. The petitioner also raised the question whether hidden local and foreign hands were at work to destabilise the country, cause consternation, demoralisation and despondency among institutions responsible for the security and defence of the motherland.
He warned that a set of media persons were out to promote foreign agenda to destabilise and denuclearise Pakistan "to make it a toothless country which would be an open invitation to the neighbouring country to invade it". He said that under Article 5 (1) of the constitution, loyalty to the state and obedience to the constitution and law was the basic duty of every citizen.
Raising a set of constitutional questions before the apex court to decide, he prayed that it might declare that freedom of press and expression was not absolute and was subject to certain restrictions as mandated by Article 19 of the constitution. The petitioner said, "It amounts to seditious act and respondents are liable to be proceeded against under the relevant laws." He also sought directions for Ministry of Information and PEMRA to implement the relevant laws, rules and regulations by imposing a ban on such TV anchors for six months as provided by the PEMRA rules. The apex court was asked to lay down guidelines so that defence and security of the country is not endangered, and respect of defence forces is maintained against such baseless allegations.