IFJ Concerned by Pakistan Court Order Restraining Media Coverage

 

The International Federation of

Journalists (IFJ) joins its affiliate, the Pakistan Federal Union of

Journalists (PFUJ), in expressing concern at the Pakistan Supreme Court’s order

on May 12 to restrain the media from reporting anything that may be deemed

“derogatory” of judges.

 

The order was an over-zealous

protection of judicial privileges and provided wide scope for arbitrary

interpretation, the IFJ said.

 

According to the PFUJ, the GEO

News TV channel and the Daily Jang, a

newspaper belonging to the same media group, put out reports on May 8 of a

supposed meeting between Pakistan’s

Federal Secretary of the Interior and three judges of the Supreme Court,

including the chief justice.

 

The reports were brief and

mentioned nothing about the purpose of the supposed meeting. Denials issued by

the Supreme Court’s protocol department were given appropriate coverage.

 

Justice Mohammad Nawaz Abbasi, one

of the three judges mentioned in the report, issued a notice on May 9 to the

chief of GEO’s Islamabad

bureau and a reporter of the Daily Jang asking them to answer prima facie charges of seeking to “exploit the court” and

“scandalise” its judges.

 

Justice Abbasi ordered the

journalists to reveal their sources and said the media should not publish any

reports involving a judge without prior clearance by court officials.

 

At a hearing on May 12, the

Supreme Court amended its earlier order in certain respects, after an

intervention by representatives of the PFUJ and GEO.

 

However, GEO and Daily Jang were ordered to produce

transcripts of all news items published or broadcast since November 3, 2007,

the day a nation-wide state of emergency was declared by the erstwhile military

regime of President Pervez Musharraf.

 

The court asked the Pakistan

Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) to ensure that the news

organisations complied with the order.

 

“Judicial appointments are a

matter of great public interest in Pakistan at the moment,” said IFJ

Asia-Pacific Director Jacqueline Park. “To restrain the media from reporting on

the judiciary would amount to a serious denial of the public right to know.”

 

The IFJ is concerned at the

court’s effort to invoke the powers of monitoring and coercion that PEMRA was

assigned under Musharraf. This effort is contrary to assurances given by the

new civilian government that PEMRA would be stripped of these powers.

 

The IFJ supports the PFUJ in its

determination to fight these restraints. It calls upon Pakistan’s

Government to dispel firmly the impression that PEMRA, once an agency of

censorship in the hands of the military, is now performing the same function

under judicial direction.

 

For further

information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +612 9333 0919

 

The IFJ represents

over 600,000 journalists in 120 countries