Monday, May 12, 2008
ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court has directed the print and electronic media neither to publish nor telecast any news item in respect of the person of a judge in any capacity, nor display his photograph on TV and in newspapers without proper verification and permission of the registrar of the Court.
The orders were issued on May 9 in a suo moto case of contempt of court, taken by the Supreme Court against Absar Alam, Islamabad Bureau Chief of Geo News, on news ticker on Geo TV on the evening of May 8 about a meeting between Chief Justice Abdul Hameed Dogar, Justice Nawaz Abbasi, Justice Faqir Mohammad Khokhar and Secretary Interior Kamal Shah.
The Supreme Court, however, found that the appearance of these short-lived tickers on Geo (which mentioned no additional details and were duly and promptly accompanied by separate versions of the interior secretary and PRO Supreme Court) was an attempt "to exploit the court and scandalise the judges" and "is in utter violation of Article 19 of the Constitution."
A three-member bench of the Supreme Court has summoned Absar Alam to appear in person before the court at 9:30am today (Monday) and explain his position on what basis the news item was telecast and reveal the source of information.
Sharifuddin Pirzada, Abdul Hafeez Pirzada and Wasim Sajjad have been appointed amicus curie by the Supreme Court in this important case in which fundamental rights, ensured under Article 19 of the Constitution, would be discussed.
Daily Jang's reporter, editor and the publisher have also been summoned to appear before the Supreme Court on Monday morning, for printing a similar news report. The Supreme Court also found it fit to bar both the print and electronic media from printing or telecasting any bit of news item regarding orders of the court without verification of the correctness and contents of the order from public relation officer of the Supreme Court.
The directions to Geo and rest of the print and electronic media have generated a lot of interest among the media persons, lawyers, civil society members and the general public about the case.
The above directions to the print and electronic media were conveyed through the same show cause notice issued to the bureau chief, Geo News, Islamabad.
Following is text of the order:
Justice Muhammad Nawaz Abbasi: On 8th of May, 2008, in the evening, a news item under heading 'Breaking News' was telecast on Geo TV channel to the effect that "Syed Kamal Shah, Secretary, Ministry of Interior, Government of Pakistan, met the Hon'ble Justice Abdul Hameed Dogar, Chief Justice of Pakistan; Hon'ble Justice Muhammad Nawaz Abbasi, Judge, Supreme Court of Pakistan; and Hon'ble Justice Faqir Muhammad Khokhar, Judge, Supreme Court of Pakistan.
Justice Muhammad Nawaz Abbasi, on telecast of the news item, directed the registrar of this court to inquire from the concerned quarter of Geo Television Channel about the telecasting of news item as he did not meet Syed Kamal Shah, Secretary Interior, and why the news item was being telecast. The registrar deputed Muhammad Mushtaq, Assistant Protocol Officer (APO), to inquire the matter, who contacted Abasr Alam, Bureau Chief, Geo TV channel, Islamabad, and inquired from him about the news item. The bureau chief asked Assistant Protocol Officer for clarification in writing that Justice Muhammad Nawaz Abbasi did not meet the Interior secretary. Similar statement has been made by Muhammad Farrukh Rafique, PRO of the Supreme Court.
2. The same news item has been published in Daily Jang dated 9.5.2008 as under:
The news clipping and statement of assistant protocol officer and public relation officer have been made part of the record.
3. We have called upon the learned attorney general for Pakistan and brought the matter to his notice. The learned attorney general assisted by Sh Zamir Hussain, learned Sr ASC, Shabbir Ahmed Lali, Additional Prosecutor General, Punjab, Sh Mehmood Ahmed, learned ASC and Dr Asghar Rana, Additional Prosecutor General, NAB, (present in Court in other cases) has verified that the news item was telecast at Geo TV channel. Learned attorney general has also stated that he, having come to know about the news item, verified the same from the quarter concerned and found that it was baseless and incorrect news as neither the hon'ble chief justice of Pakistan nor the Justice Muhammad Nawaz Abbasi, Judge Supreme Court of Pakistan, met the Secretary Interior. He, however, stated that the Interior secretary was called by Justice Faqir Muhammad Khokhar in chamber in connection with some official matter being chairman of the Federal Review Board. He stated that telecasting of such a baseless news, is not only an exploitation of the Court but is also scandalisation of the person of judges and Court which may constitute contempt of Court.
4. Having heard the learned attorney general and going through the news item telecast on Geo TV and published in Daily Jang as well as the statement of the officials of this Court, we find that telecasting/publication of such a baseless news which tends to exploit the Court and scandalize the Judges, is utter violation of Article 19 of the Constitution which provides guarantee of freedom of speech and press and may prima facie constitute contempt of Court. We, therefore, issue notice to Absar Alam, Bureau Chief, Geo TV channel, at Islamabad, to appear in person before the Court on May 12, 2008, and explain his position with reply that on what basis the news item has been telecast at Geo TV channel, and what was his source of information. The Editor, Publisher and Reporter of daily Jang, Rawalpindi, are also issued notices for (May) 12th instant with direction to submit their reply to the show cause notice that on what basis and source, a false and incorrect news item scandalising the Court and judges has been published.
5. The print and electronic media is hereby directed that in future no TV channel or newspaper will publish any news item in respect of the person of a judge in any capacity or publish his photograph in the newspaper or display on TV as the case may be, without proper verification and prior permission of the Registrar of this Court. The press and electronic media will also not publish any news regarding the orders of the Court or telecast at TV without the verification of the correctness and contents of the order from Public Relation Officer of the Supreme Court.
6. The chairman, Pemra, and Secretary, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of Pakistan, shall appear in person and produce the code of conduct of electronic and press media respectively.
7. We desire that Syed Sharifud Din Pirzada, learned Sr ASC, Abdul Hafeez Pirzada, learned Sr ASC and Waseem Sajjad, learned Sr ASC, should assist the Court in the matter. The learned counsel, who have assisted the learned Attorney General for Pakistan today, shall remain associated and assist the Court. The order shall be conveyed today to the concerned quarters for immediate action and implementation. To be re-listed on 12th instant.