The Supreme Court on Wednesday took notice of the delay in payment of salaries to journalists and media workers, seeking a report in this regard from media owners.

A three-member bench headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Mian Saqib Nisar also directed media houses to pay pending salaries to journalists and media workers within 10 days.

The bench issued the directions on an application filed by the president of Press Association of Supreme Court, Tayyab Baloch, and Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) president Afzal Butt while hearing a case about the media commission, which was formed by the SC in 2013 to review major points of concern in mass media against the terms of references (ToRs) formulated by the court.

The court ordered media owners to submit in writing the reasons for delay in payment of salaries to their employees.

"Media owners should be providers of the workers, not masters," the CJP remarked during the hearing.

Journalist Hamid Mir, who was a petitioner in the media commission case, informed the bench that the court has issued its verdict on the Wage Board award, but the judgement is not being implemented. The CJP responded that the issue of implementation should be taken to the relevant forum.

Mir urged the court to order implementation of the commission's recommendations. He reminded that the commission had recommended that Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) should be free of government control and the government had agreed to make the authority independent through an amendment to the law. The additional attorney general told the court that a committee has been functioning in this regard.

The CJP observed that it had been years since the commission's report was released but the relevant government body has yet to fully implement its recommendations. He said Pemra should be independent and free from any influence.

The CJP remarked that access to information is a basic right of the public, but warned that the licence of any TV channel will be cancelled if they are found to have received foreign funding.

Noting that the Punjab government had run lengthy advertisement campaigns regarding the Safe City project in Lahore, the court observed that government ads needed to be regulated.

"Why don't we ask [TV] channels how much they were paid by the Punjab government?" the CJP asked, adding that the court will also hear out the provincial information department regarding the ad campaigns.

Before adjourning the hearing of the case until February 20, the court directed the information ministry to submit a report with suggestions regarding the Wage Board for electronic media and legal matters.

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