Shooting the messenger?

Published January 5, 2022

THAT the Islamabad High Court may proceed to indict journalists among others in a case involving an affidavit signed by a former Gilgit-Baltistan chief justice sets an unfortunate precedent for press freedom. Named among the seven individuals who may be indicted next week are publisher and editor-in-chief of Jang Group Mir Shakeelur Rehman, journalist Ansar Abbasi and resident editor Amer Ghouri.

The Association of Electronic Media Editors and News Directors and the Pakistan Broadcasters Association have rightly expressed concern over the order issued by the high court in the contempt case, as the media workers were merely reporting on an affidavit after confirming its existence and authenticity.

Read more: Concerns expressed over court directives of indicting journalists in affidavit case

Allegations of impropriety against the senior-most judge of the Supreme Court by another senior ex-judge, are indeed alarming. It is no surprise that the affidavit’s claim that former chief justice Saqib Nisar attempted to influence the judiciary in the Nawaz Sharif case has been taken so seriously and is being seen as having ‘scandalised’ the judiciary.

But indicting the media workers in question in a contempt case for learning about the story and then confirming it with the former GB judge Rana Shamim — and also contacting Mr Nisar — is a move that may prove detrimental to the cause of press freedom.

Such news stories are very much in the public interest, and taking action against those who report and publish it is akin to shooting the messenger. Mr Abbasi reported what he had learned and verified the existence of the affidavit.

While the claims of the latter have raised questions about the higher judiciary, the reporter cannot be punished for reporting on it. Indicting him will be viewed as a blow to press freedom, and may be seen as a warning to reporters to self-censor and to think twice before reporting on a matter even if it is true and in the public interest. Against this backdrop, the judiciary’s signal that it may indict the media workers will set a questionable precedent.

Published in Dawn, January 5th, 2022

Opinion

Editorial

Wise counsel
Updated 04 Jul, 2022

Wise counsel

Fuelling the fires of communalism for petty political gains is dangerous and can have a long-lasting impact on India’s stability.
Hazardous waste
04 Jul, 2022

Hazardous waste

GIVEN we have not yet developed streamlined systems for managing locally produced hazardous waste, we are inviting...
Mob ‘justice’
04 Jul, 2022

Mob ‘justice’

OVER the past few days, a string of deadly incidents has been reported from Karachi in which enraged mobs have...
Skyrocketing prices
Updated 03 Jul, 2022

Skyrocketing prices

Some sellers are seeking to take advantage of the prevailing disorder by creating artificial shortages or jacking up prices.
Flooding alert
03 Jul, 2022

Flooding alert

THE Gilgit-Baltistan government has issued an alert about the possible flooding of areas along river banks and...
Assaulting journalists
03 Jul, 2022

Assaulting journalists

ANOTHER day, another citizen roughed up for speaking his mind. The assault on veteran journalist Ayaz Amir by...