ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) has sought a report from the information ministry on the measures the government has taken to safeguard the rights of journalists and media persons.
IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah heard a petition filed by a faction of the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists. The journalists’ body has invoked the jurisdiction of the IHC under Article 199 of the Constitution.
Advocate Umer Ijaz Gillani, representing the petitioner, contended that security of media workers and journalists has a direct nexus with protecting fundamental rights of people guaranteed under Articles 9, 19 and 19-A of the Constitution.
He argued that the Implementation Tribunal for Newspaper Employees (ITNE) has not been constituted and more than 40,000 cases are pending in it. He contended that there is no effective legislation on protection of the rights of media workers and journalists.
40,000 cases are pending in ITNE, court told
Justice Minallah observed: “The questions raised are in the context of an independent free press and media. Article 19-A guarantees that every citizen shall have the right to have access to information in all matters of public importance.
“The independence of an editor, opinion writer and reporter is of crucial importance. Their independence and noninterference in editorial policies are relatable to the regulation of the proprietorship of the media and press.”
The questions are, therefore, of paramount importance and it is important to understand and comprehend the international best practices and principles employed to ensure the access of citizens to information and for an independent and free media and press to play its role as contemplated under Article 19-A of the Constitution, the chief justice observed.
The court directed the registrar office to issue notices to the information ministry and the ITNE for filing reports and para-wise comments within a fortnight.
The ITNE registrar was directed to submit a report on the current status of the pending complaints. The information ministry was directed to highlight the measures taken by the government to protect the rights of media workers and journalists.
The court also appointed senior journalists Mazhar Abbas and Hamid Mir and the presidents of the Supreme Court Bar Association and the Islamabad High Court Journalists Association as amici curiae.
On the next date of hearing, the counsel for the petitioner and the amici curiae are expected to assist the IHC whether it would not be beneficial for adjudication of the questions raised in the petition to seek an amicus brief from the United Nations Human Rights Commission.
Published in Dawn, November 28th, 2021