The Press Council of Pakistan (PCP) during a meeting on Thursday said that a committee formed by the government to investigate Dawn's story on a high-level security meeting should not insist upon disclosure of the source of information during its probe.
The PCP also unanimously resolved that the government probe committee should not proceed against the newspaper or its staff.
Attendees of the meeting discussed the formation of the probe committee and were of the view that such matters fall within the jurisdiction of the council and should have been brought before it in the event of any grievance, as envisaged in the Press Council of Pakistan Ordinance.
PCP Chairman Dr. M Salahuddin Mengalon chaired the 13th General Council meeting of the PCP.
Mujibur Rehman Shami, Kazi Asad Abid, Aamer Mahmood, Wamiq Zuberi, Ali Kazi, Anwar Sajdi, Ibrahim Khan, Dr. Shah Jahan Syed, Iqbal Jaffri, Khurshid Tanweer, Nasir Zaidi, and Acting Registrar PCP Ejaz Hussain Baqri attended the meeting.
The PCP chairman is a former advocate general of Balochistan. Other participants of the meeting include senior representatives of publishers and editors, APNS and CPNE, and representatives of the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ)
Editorial: Reaction to Dawn story
The story, the backlash
The committee has been formed probe the publication of Dawn's story "Act against militants or face international isolation, civilians tell military", which reported details of a high level civil-military meeting discussing the issue of Pakistan's banned outfits.
Dawn staffer Cyril Almeida's name was added to the Exit Control List ─ preventing travel abroad ─ after the report was published by the paper.
The Prime Minister's Office rejected the story thrice since it was published on October 6. In an Editor's note, Dawn clarified its position and stated on the record that the story "was verified, cross-checked and fact-checked."
The note further stated that "Many at the helm of affairs are aware of the senior officials, and participants of the meeting who were contacted by the newspaper for collecting information. Therefore, the elected government and state institutions should refrain from targeting the messenger, and scape-goating the country’s most respected newspaper in a malicious campaign."
The report of the high-profile security meeting has forced the government to initiate an inquiry to identify the person responsible for its leak.
PML-N's Pervaiz Rasheed resigned from his post as information minister after an initial probe.
The government earlier this week formed a seven-member inquiry committee to ascertain the source who leaked information about the high-level meeting between top military and civilian officials to Dawn.
Officials told Dawn that the committee headed by retired Justice Aamer Raza Khan has been given 30 days to submit its report.
According to its terms of reference, the committee is required to inquire into the circumstances surrounding the alleged leak, determine the interests and motives behind the leak and publication of the story, establish the identity of those responsible and apportion blame.
Other members of the inquiry committee include Establishment Secretary Tahir Shahbaz, Punjab Ombudsman Najam Saeed, Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) Punjab Director Dr Usman Anwar and one representative each from the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), Military Intelligence (MI) and Intelligence Bureau (IB).