SC summons interior secretary, DG FIA, and police chief over harassment of journalists

ISLAMABAD—The Supreme Court has asked three senior officials, including the interior secretary, the director general FIA, and the Islamabad police inspector general to appear before it on August 26 to hear the government’s version on the rising incidents of harassment of journalists, Dawn reported.

The court issued the directives in response to a four-page petition complaining that journalists were facing increasing acts of intimidation at the hands of security agencies.

The court regretted that the FIA appeared to have overstepped its mandate and undermined the nation’s confidence in the judiciary.

A two-judge SC bench, consisting of Justice Qazi Faez Isa and Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhel, also issued notices to the secretaries of information and broadcasting, religious affairs, and human rights ministries and to the Council of Pakistan Newspaper Editors (CPNE), All Pakistan Newspapers Society (APNS), the Pakistan Broadcasters Association (PBA), Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) and Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA), asking them to state whether the allegations made in the application were correct or not.

The apex court took up the matter after Abdul Qayyum Siddiqui, a former president of the Press Association of the Supreme Court (PAS), drew its attention to the rising incidents of harassment of journalists.

The court observed that since the application had raised matters of public importance regarding the enforcement of fundamental rights, it met the criteria for invoking Article 184(3) of the Constitution.

Moreover, the Supreme Court observed, if the allegations were true it would be a grave transgression of the Constitution requiring urgent redress.

The court issued notices to the heads of the Pakistan Television Corporation (PTC) and the Pakistan Broadcasting Corporation (PBC), asking them to reply in writing whether they uphold the fundamental right of a free press and comply with different judgments in this regard.

Attorney General Khalid Jawed Khan and the advocates general of the four provinces and Islamabad Capital Territory were issued notices under the Code of Civil Procedure.

According to the order, journalists were being harassed, intimidated, attacked, and shot at. “There are no consequences for the perpetrators and those who should be protecting journalists and ensuring freedom of the press are themselves involved.”

The court’s order also referred to a press release issued by the FIA stating that criminal cases had been registered against some journalists because they reported against the judiciary.

But the press release did not disclose what was said against the judiciary.

“The press release creates an impression as if criminal cases were registered at the behest of the judiciary, and in doing so it portrays the judiciary to be inimical to the guaranteed fundamental right of a free press,” the order regretted.

“The FIA appears to have overstepped its mandate and to have undermined the people’s confidence in the judiciary, the guarantor of fundamental rights.”

Such tactics could undermine the respect, regard, and confidence of the people in the judiciary and send an impression as if the judiciary stands with the FIA, the order said.

The court asked the FIA director-general, “without whose authorization the press release could not have been issued and who has not retracted it”, to disclose who authorized the issuance of the press release and to explain why had he allowed its issuance, especially since it made mention of the judiciary. He should explain why he did not withdraw the press release if it was issued without his consent, the Supreme Court added.

The court ordered the submission of a list of cases filed against journalists. The list should specify the actual content—a transcript of the text which constituted an offence in FIA’s eyes.

Source: Dawn / JP

Supreme Court

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