ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Monday ordered removal of Minister of State for Information Marriyum Aurangzeb from a search committee constituted to find and appoint a suitable and eminent professional as chairman of the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra).
Headed by Planning Commission’s Deputy Chairman Sartaz Aziz, the search committee will include All Pakistan Newspapers Society President Hameed Haroon, veteran journalist Arif Nizami, Pakistan Broadcasters Association Chairman Mian Amir Mehmood, Information Secretary Sardar Ahmed Nawaz Sukhera and Establishment Secretary Maroof Afzal.
A three-judge SC bench, headed by Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar, asked the relevant authorities not to include the name of the information minister in the six-member search committee, observing that Ms Aurangzeb would not find time as she must be busy issuing statements.
Additional Attorney General Mohammad Waqar Rana said all the proposed members of the search committee, including Ms Aurangzeb, were independent people.
The bench observed that since the information minister was busy issuing political statements, she should not be included in the committee.
Says Marriyum Aurangzeb can’t be included in committee for Pemra chairman’s appointment as she is busy issuing statements
The Supreme Court was hearing a suo motu case relating to advertisements issued by the federal and provincial governments to the media.
The bench also took exception to slogan-chanting by some women outside the apex court against the verdict about the length of disqualification under Article 62(1)(f) of the Constitution on Friday. While pointing to other members of the bench, the chief justice said they were the “real lions”. If those criticising the judiciary were real men of dignity, they should come forward instead of using women as a shield, he said. “Come forward like a man so that the court can take some action,” the bench observed, adding the court was extra cautious and exercising much restraint.
The chief justice then regretted that a private television anchorperson raised a hue and cry when the court named former Indian railways minister Lalu Prasad at a hearing in Lahore about the losses incurred by the Pakistan Railways.
Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed observed that things went too far from mere statements, but hastened to add that the independence of the media was a guarantee to the independence of the judiciary. He observed that any criticism should be directed towards the judgements but not towards individual judges.
Referring to the appointment of the Pemra chairman, the Supreme Court at the last hearing had suggested to the information secretary that the government might have to re-initiate the entire process for selecting the Pemra chairman since none of the individuals shortlisted were qualified to head the regulatory authority.
The court had told the information secretary that the government might have to re-advertise for initiating the process of the appointment of the chairman.
Additional Attorney General Mohammad Waqar Rana argued that the government intended to resolve issues about proposed amendments to the Pemra laws within three weeks, but currently the most important issue was the appointment of the Pemra chairman.
Petitioner Hamid Mir argued before the court that the draft amendment regarding the Pemra board was ready with the government and the proposed draft suggested amendments to Section 5 of the Pemra Ordinance, which deals with the power of the federal government to issue directives.
Justice Saeed then wondered if there was any section of the ordinance regarding broadcasting fake or defamatory news and recalled how in Malaysia telecasting of wrong or fake news had been made a criminal offence.
Earlier, the state had dominance over the fake news but now the authority to disseminate such news had landed in the hands of others, the judge regretted.
The additional attorney general agreed that regulating fake news had become the most important issue these days.
Justice Ijaz-ul-Ahsan observed that Section 5 of the Pemra Ordinance was an open-ended provision that allowed the federal government to intervene in its matters.
The court also summoned the chief executive officer of Geo television, Mir Shakil-ur-Rehman, to appear before it on Tuesday for not paying salaries to workers and, while pointing towards the petitioner, wondered that some journalists had told him that anchors were getting salaries to the tune of Rs3.8 million to Rs5m, whereas the reporters who worked day and night received a little over just Rs20,000 as monthly salary.
Published in Dawn, Aprill 17th, 2018
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