SC irked by misreporting of its proceedings

ISLAMABAD: A statement attributed to a Supreme Court judge in a section of the press dominated Wednesday’s hearing initiated on defamatory and objectionable banners placed against him in different places of the capital.

A two-judge bench headed by Justice Jawwad S. Khawaja asked Attorney General Salman Aslam Butt to take up with the government the matter about what the court called deliberate misreporting of its proceedings and consider devising a code of conduct for the media and, if needed, introduce some legislation in this regard.

“We cannot allow putting at stakes institutions of the state,” observed the court which had asked Interior Secretary Shahid Khan and Intelligence Bureau Director General Aftab Sultan to submit reports on the overnight display of banners critical to the judge.

On Tuesday, the court had asked the attorney general to go through the transcript of a television talk show and find out who was trying to attack and damage the reputation of key national institutions like the judiciary.

On Wednesday, the AG submitted reports on behalf of the two senior government officers informing the court that Shafiq Butta, a painter who painted the banners, had been arrested along with his two associates Mohammad Nazar and Mohammad Waqar.

Police have registered a case against them, but one Rashid from Rawalpindi who hired them could not be traced.

The AG sought time to complete the investigation.

But Advocate Taufiq Asif, who had brought to the notice of the court the critical banners, rejected the information and said the banners had been placed in different parts of the capital between 11pm and 5am on May 22-23. The banners were brought in two SUVs to the red zone, the most protected area of the capital, and Rs9,000 was given to the painter.

When the court asked about the source of information, Mr Asif said it was privileged information.

The court observed that it was not concerned about the content of the banners but worried about how these inflammatory banners had been put up inside the red zone.

The bench referred to the 2012 petition of anchorperson Hamid Mir about a media commission and recalled that the court had also emphasised the need for developing a code of conduct to discourage irresponsible reporting in the print and electronic media.

“Freedom of the press does not mean unbridled independence,” the court observed.

The court then cited the news story in which it was reported that Justice Jawwad S. Khawaja had observed that banners against the judiciary had been put up when the court took up the missing persons’ case.

The court regretted that some elements were bent upon creating a wedge and adding fuel to the fire. “No one can be given a free hand to do whatever they like to do,” it said.

Khudayar Mohla, president of the Press Association of the Supreme Court, a body that regulates the reporters covering the apex court proceedings, informed the court that the association had drafted a code of conduct which had been circulated among its members for feedback. The code would be approved after the members came up with their suggestions, he added.

Matiullah Jan, a senior court reporter, suggested that the government should not be asked to develop a code of conduct without consulting the stakeholders. He requested the court to issue contempt notices against a particular television channel and its anchorperson for hurling accusations against the judge in their talk show.


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