The Supreme Court of Pakistan —– File photo by Alia Chughtai/Dawn.com

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court is likely to issue an order on Monday for making public a list of media houses and journalists who had received government money in the name of national security after it is testified by the information ministry to be a true document.

A two-judge bench comprising Justice Jawwad S. Khawaja and Justice Khilji Arif Hussain, which had taken up a set of petitions regarding media accountability initiated at the behest of some television anchors, was also informed that former prime minister Raja Parvez Ashraf had approved on March 16, the last date of his government, a summary sanctioning payment of over Rs1.32 billion for media campaigns.

On Wednesday, the information ministry submitted two sets of lists. It claimed privilege on the one containing itemised particulars of 155 expenditures under different heads like special secret services funds, special publicity funds, etc. The ministry, however, said it had no problem with the release of the other containing 217 items of expenditures.

The court was surprised by the ministry’s request for secrecy on financial heads like payment of Rs187,000 to a TV journalist for his boarding and lodging in a Bhurban hotel.

The ministry also pleaded that the list on which it had claimed confidentiality should also not be subject to audit mainly because the Auditor General of Pakistan would then raise objections for not adhering to the PPRA (Public Procurement Regulatory Authority).

But the court termed the argument illogical and said the concept had been derived from the laws introduced by the colonial masters in 1782 in the name of Civil List and Secret Fund where a certification by an officer was enough for not getting any expenditure audited.

“The Auditor General is watchdog of the people and every penny of the nation should be audited, except where the state justifies that revelation could compromise security,” Justice Khawaja observed.

Absar Alam, a TV anchor, requested the court to order the ministry to submit the register it had kept in its office because there was an apprehension that the names of innocent journalists might be included in it whereas those who had been bribed were omitted.

The court ordered the information secretary, who is also principal accounting officer of the department, and his associate director Mohammad Tahir Hassan to certify the two lists to be authentic within this week.

Advocate Raja Amir Abbas, representing the information ministry, sought more time when he was specifically asked by the court to provide all statutes, notifications or instructions to support the claims of privilege/secrecy.

The court said article 19A of the constitution which guaranteed the right to information was also relevant for the purpose in determining whether or not the privilege being claimed was unavoidable.

The court also decided to continue hearing an application on Thursday jointly moved by the All Pakistan Newspapers Society and the Pakistan Broadcasting Association requesting to be impleaded as a party.

The application was filed against the freezing of advertisement funds by the information ministry on the court’s orders.

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Comments are closed.

Comments (12)

mohd Taj
April 18, 2013 3:49 am
ppp reps act as it own pakistan.
YOUSUF HUSSAIN
April 18, 2013 4:01 am
Not a single department are exempted from Audit,the AG of Pakistan will make sure and the constitution of Pakistan should allow AG to make or carry out the audit to each and every department
JAVAID KHAN
April 18, 2013 4:30 am
Public has the right to know the names of blacksheep in Pakistan media.There names should be made public as soon as possible.
Sumair
April 18, 2013 5:02 am
This should include lists of ALL from the beginning who received money and other favors like plots or "special Hajj and other international tours"....
Tagahb
April 18, 2013 5:13 am
I hope this list is made public as the nation has the right too see how many journalists have been betraying trust of the nation for money. I request the Supreme Court to make it public regardless of consequences.
Husain Jan
April 18, 2013 5:34 am
Supreme Court must give clear orders for totally abolishing this so-called "secret" fund on immediate basis. It should be ordered that no amount is reserved in this category in the upcoming budget. Enough is enough, this unholy and unethical practice of bribery must stop now, without any delay at all.
ahmadviews
April 18, 2013 5:34 am
this is excellent news. its high time that we had transparency.
Iqbal
April 18, 2013 7:10 am
May be we will find some of the recipients in the care-taker setup :)
Umair
April 18, 2013 8:07 am
any news about which TV channel received 30 million?
Khalid Palijo
April 18, 2013 8:23 am
The court should order the concerned journalists to refund the public money they have received a bribe. Journalists should not be treated as holy cows any more.
Imtiaz
April 18, 2013 12:34 pm
I think in the last one year is fine because the previous government has plundered more money last year in panic.
Khan
April 18, 2013 1:34 pm
Where CJ son is still out...and why Gillani son out too and are allowed to take part in election? Where is Justice, where is SC and CJ?
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