A reporter for English daily The News has issued an apology for authoring a story that suggested that the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) investigating money laundering allegations against Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had not found the premier guilty of any wrongdoing in its report.
Titled "Panama JIT ‘doesn’t find PM guilty,’ but his sons", the story published on July 10 before the actual investigation report was made public said that the JIT had "at no place" held the prime minister responsible for any illegal activity.
Quoting "sources close to the JIT", the news story had claimed that the JIT had connected Sharif's sons — Hussain and Hassan Nawaz — to their family's failure to provide evidence concerning the transfer of funds to London.
"Clearly the most critical and newsworthy part of my story that 'Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is not held responsible for any wrongdoing' proved completely wrong," reporter Ahmad Noorani wrote in his apology, which was published on the front page of The News' July 12 edition.
"As a professional journalist, I do understand that the story has hurt my readers as well as my own credibility."
In his apology, Noorani regretted what he called a "vilification campaign" started against him and the Jang Group after the JIT report was made public, especially on social media.
"I was accused of deliberately filing a false story to please the prime minister and his family ignoring the fact that I did clearly write that the Sharifs failed to prove the money trail. It is ridiculous and absurd to suggest that any such report, which is going to be proven wrong within a few hours, will be ‘made up’ simply to support the Sharif family."
"Human beings make errors and I am no exception," he concluded.
In a separate note published on Wednesday, the editorial board of The News also apologised for the news story which it said was found to be "not entirely correct".
After receiving the JIT report on Monday, a three-judge bench of the Supreme Court (SC) had ordered the filing of a contempt of court notice against the printer, publisher and reporter of The News for another story headlined: ‘SC directed ISI to look after JIT’s affairs’.
The bench had expressed its annoyance with Ahmad Noorani, who called a member of the Panama Papers case bench in connection with the said story.
According to Justice Ejaz Afzal, Noorani called him and sought his comments on the story which suggested that the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) was managing the "secretarial and administrative affairs" of the JIT, allegedly on the directions of the Supreme Court.
“How can a reporter dare approach a member of this court?” the bench observed on Monday.
Correction: An earlier version of this story erroneously stated that the Supreme Court had issued a contempt notice to The News over the story titled "Panama JIT ‘doesn’t find PM guilty,’ but his sons", however, the notice was issued over a separate story. The error is regretted.