PESHAWAR: While deciding a defamation suit, a local court has ordered Islamabad-based senior journalist Umar Cheema to pay Rs1 million damages to a senior police officer for publishing a defamatory article in his national English daily.

The defamation suit was filed by DIG (Research and Analysis), Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Police, Fasihuddin, against the publication of a ‘defamatory’ story against him by Cheema on Nov 25, 2010.

The court of additional district and sessions judge, Aurangzeb Khan, also directed the journalist to tender an apology and publish it in the newspaper in the similar manner and with the same prominence as the defamatory statement was made for the wrong done to the plaintiff.

It added that if Cheema failed to do so, the petitioner would be entitled to Rs1 million general damages.

In his verdict issued on May 11, the judge declared that the plaintiff , Fasihuddin, who was also an ex-director of FIA, had suffered damage to his honour and reputation as a result of the disputed article published in the newspaper by the defendant [Umar Cheema], which couldn’t be measured in terms of money.

“However, keeping in view the evidence available on record, the plaintiff [Fasihuddin] is entitled for the decree only for general damages and in order to compensate him an amount of one million rupees is imposed upon the defendant as general damages.”

Barrister Barkatullah Khan and Barrister Amirullah Khan appeared for the plaintiff and said their client had suffered a lot due to the false and unjustified reporting of the defendant and had faced different inquiries by the National Accountability Bureau and establishment department, leading to a bar on his promotion.

They said the plaintiff was cleared in all the inquiries.

The lawyers said the defendant had not produced a single witness in his support and failed in proving the contents of the said defamatory story.

They said the plaintiff was a reputable person who is the founder editor of Pakistan Journal of Criminology and was awarded several international and national awards.

Mr. Fasihuddin told reporters on the court premises that justice had been done after a long trial for five years and that court’s decision against Cheema would help discourage yellow journalism.

“This judgment will guide reporters to a code of conduct for investigative reporting which should be positive and constructive instead of being slanderous, baseless, defamatory and disrespectful.

He said he would approach the higher court for increase in the damages imposed on the defendant.

Published in Dawn, May 13th, 2016

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