KARACHI: Expressing his disappointment over the Islamabad High Court's decision to frame charges against journalists for their coverage of a case pertaining to ex-chief judge of Gilgit-Baltistan, Rana Shamim, Karachi Press Club President Fazil Jamili on Thursday said that "discharging journalistic duties is not a crime".
The case pertains to the publication of an affidavit by Shamim which alleges that the former chief justice of Pakistan Saqib Nisar manipulated cases against former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and Maryam Nawaz.
The KPC president said: “As journalists, we are bound by the principles upholding our profession to report on any matter that is in the public interest. Given the robust nature of conversations and debates that followed the publication of the story, it is well established now that the public interest was indeed served in pursuing and publishing the story.”
Jamili urged the IHC to revisit its decision to subject the individuals who brought this story to the public, to the onerous and unnecessary process of vindication through trial.
“The court's decision, as it stands, will have a chilling effect on Pakistan's already beleaguered media industry and discourage journalists from pursuing stories that hold those in power to account,” he said.
Framing charges against these journalists for doing their duty is akin to levelling a charge against every journalist employed in the service of the people of Pakistan, he added.
Reporters Without Borders calls for annulment of decision
Earlier, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) had called for the annulment of the arbitrary decision which violates the fundamental principles of the rule of law in Pakistan.
In a statement issued by the RSF on Wednesday, the head of RSF's Asia-Pacific office Daniel Bastard had said that the RSF calls on the Chief Justice Islamabad High Court, Justice Athar Minallah, to rise to the occasion by immediately lifting the charges against the members of the team of The News International.
Respect for the freedom of the press and the independence of the judiciary are at stake; two pillars of democracy are regularly threatened, he had said.
Meanwhile, investigative journalist Ansar Abbasi, during an interview with RSF said "I checked my sources".
His ethical requirements were however ignored in the decision, pronounced this Tuesday, December 28, by Chief Justice of the High Court of Islamabad Athar Minallah.
The IHC chief justice decided to open legal proceedings for “contempt of court” against Ansar Abbasi, investigator for the The News International, its Editor, Amir Ghauri, and Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman, owner of the Jang Media Group, which publishes the newspaper.
Ansar Abbasi had simply filed an article, published on November 15, in which he revealed a statement taken under oath by a former Chief Judge of Gilgit-Baltistan, Rana Shamim.
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