ISLAMABAD: Two eminent and respected journalists, Hamid Mir and Absar Alam, have knocked at the doors of the Supreme Court demanding constitution of a National Media Commission to hold the journalists and media-owners accountable and to formulate a code of conduct.
They have also demanded of the apex court that the proposed commission may also look into the secret fund established by the government to buy/malign journalists. The petition also talks of assets declaration by journalists and media houses owners.
The petition filed by senior journalists prays that a commission should be established to inquire about all stakeholders including the federal government, provincial governments, prominent journalists, media house owners, independent journalists, role of agencies, etc. and thereby expose the black sheep amongst their fraternity who have damaged this noble career and profession and attempted to malign the judiciary through the illegally gotten and amassed wealth by a property tycoon.
The journalists have mentioned that ‘the events of the last month or so in effect have proved that the independence of judiciary and media is something the so-called establishment finds difficult to swallow and, therefore, every attempt is being made to malign and discredit them, both.
It is specifically averred that this entire saga of castigating the judiciary has in fact been engineered by those that operate from the shadows with the help of certain disgruntled individuals and/or public office holders who have been unable to manipulate the institution of judiciary.’
“That the current Code of Conduct formulated under Regulation 24 of the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (TV/Radio Broadcast Operations) Regulations, 2002, is hardly a code sufficient for regulating the conduct of the media broadcasters or cable TV operators.”
“It is submitted that ethics must be writ into the body of media law in Pakistan and must culminate into a comprehensive Code of Conduct regulating the print and electronic media and the associated journalists.”
“That the petitioner journalists by choice feel that recent disclosures of anchor persons, producers and owners of a private television channel stand exposed, hobnobbing with a property tycoon of dubious character and that this single act has destroyed the credibility of the whole media and further the public has lost confidence and trust in the electronic media.
It is submitted that with a view to restoring the image of honest media persons, an institution which has the ability to steer Pakistan towards a better course of change it is imperative that the owners, producers, anchor persons and journalists associated with large media groups/houses must declare their assets, statements of income and wealth tax.
It is further submitted that owners of television channels must declare their political affiliation if any, their sources of income and revenue, the extent of government patronage in the form of advertising and such other influential and wealthy patronage from private individuals, political parties and/or agencies, if any.
Only such disclosure can ensure that the said television channels/media houses maintain a balance while disseminating information thus making it unbiased and true.”
The petition prays to the court to summon the property tycoon and he be directed to produce documents in order to prove the allegations he/they have made, directly or indirectly, of providing benefits in form of cash, cars and plots to journalists, military officials, bureaucrats and other individuals and his rags-to-riches jump may also be probed.
If the government were to adhere to the Freedom of Information Ordinance, 2002 in letter and spirit most of the elements of bias and extent of truthfulness would be fulfilled as then each and every document so obtained by any citizen or journalist would have the sanction of the state and, therefore, there would have been no room for sensational journalism, it maintains.
“That the establishment and maintenance by federal government of a secret fund is another matter which needs to be thoroughly examined as the purpose of such a fund can only be dubious as it is used by the government of the time for buying certain elements of the print and electronic media.
That a well-known hushed up scam of misusing government funds in recent history by Government of Punjab is that of M/s Midas (Pvt) Ltd, inquiry of which has been put on the back burner because the same is allegedly influenced by owners of media houses.
The DG Anti Corruption Punjab may kindly be asked as to why they have not
proceeded against the said Midas.” “It is further submitted that the said scam was to the tune of Rs640 million and the same was highlighted and put before the Hon’ble Chief Justice by the Transparency International Pakistan.”