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February 15, 2018

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CJ irked at why denial of remarks about Shahbaz not carried in The News

KARACHI: It is a great honour for Jang-Geo Group’s Editor-in-Chief Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman to be called to court by the honourable Chief Justice of Pakistan, Mr Justice Saqib Nisar, a spokesman for Jang-Geo Group has said in a statement.

“Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman holds the judiciary and the respected judges in highest regard and so, has always complied with their orders for his appearance in the court,” the spokesman said referring to an order by the respected chief justice, which he issued after showing his displeasure at the publication of a story in The News and Jang newspapers, titled "Wish to see Shahbaz Sharif as prime minister", attributing the quote to him. The news item also carried taglines saying “CJ expresses desire to see younger Sharif as PM in case PML-N wins next elections; praises Punjab government for its work; why are you after my job, banters Shahbaz”.

Relating an interesting dialogue between the chief justice and the Punjab chief minister during the hearing of a suo motu case on provision of clean drinking water and disposal of untreated waste water and hospital waste, the story was published by dailies The News and Jang, as it was by almost all other newspapers, and almost all television channels on Monday.

Expressing his displeasure at the publication of the news item, the CJP said “they [the Jang group] must publish a clarification just like they published the original story." The honourable CJP warned that if the group failed to publish a correction, Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman should appear in the court the next day [to clarify publication of the news item, and if he [the editor-in-chief] did not show up, he would order the police and other law enforcers to produce Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman in court.

"When did I express the desire for anyone to be elected," the honourable CJP had asked Abdul Qayyum Siddiqui, a senior court reporter with Geo, on Monday afternoon. Showing his ire at the publication of the news item giving “such an impression”, the chief justice remarked that what happened to the Jang newspaper, it is publishing incorrect news items. "Everything will be fixed if the newspaper is shut for four days," the electronic media quoted the respected chief justice as saying while warning Jang Group to be careful in future.

The Jang-Geo Group spokesman said the news content the respected chief justice expressed his displeasure at had also been reported by almost all other newspapers and television channels.

“We would also like to clarify that the news items several other newspapers carried gave a stronger impression to the effect the respected chief justice did not like, than the ones carried by our dailies. It is an honour for Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman to be called to the court by the honourable chief justice. But the fact remains that the order for appearance was issued only for him sparing all other owners of newspapers and television channels. Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman will appear before the court whenever it calls him,” said the spokesman clarifying that the editor-in-chief had not received any message for his appearance in the court the other day.

The spokesman said the media kept carrying tickers during the day about the court ordering Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman to appear before it. “Within our organisation, we quizzed all sections to know whether we had received any order for the editor-in-chief to appear in the court. We also asked Jang-Geo’s senior reporter Abdul Qayyum Siddiqui about it and he too said he had not received any. “Had Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman received any such message, he would have promptly appeared in the court. Had Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman been conveyed any such message, he would have readily appeared in the court. He would have felt honoured in complying with the chief justice’s order.”

The spokesman said that the organisation launched an inquest immediately after the honourable Chief Justice took notice of the publication of the news item. “Reported by our veteran reporter Mr Riaz Shakir who had been reporting court cases for several years, the news item was published without any changes whatsoever. Some other newspapers and television channels too had carried the news item that gave an amplified impression [to the effect the respected chief justice did not like], than the ones carried by our dailies. And we can present a record of all newspapers of the day before the honourable chief justice and publish it in our media if he asks us to.”

The Jang-Geo spokesman said the honourable chief justice had expressed his displeasure at a certain part of Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah’s media talk, which a spokesman for the Supreme Court had issued a clarification on. The clarification was carried.

The spokesman said that they take this opportunity to respectfully submit to the honourable chief justice that Jang-Geo Group’s Editor-in-Chief Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman was recently served a show-cause notice for contempt of court. “The news item he was handed the notice for was also carried by some other newspapers as well but they were spared of any notice or action. The news item carried by The News was correct (only a word went wrong in the news reported by Jang), but despite that only Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman was served the notice. The case, which is not based on facts, is still pending with the court.”

“Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman had not uttered any foul words for respected fellow judges of the honourable chief justice. It were certain sections of the media that had misreported whatever he had said. He had only pointed towards certain remarks by the judges saying that they would not hold ground until they were made part of a court order. Talk shows based on a concocted piece of information were done for several days to malign him and tarnish his image before the judiciary which he holds in high esteem. This vilification campaign put not only Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman but also his family and Jang-Geo Group employees under a great mental stress.”

“The honourable chief justice said that every headline and news item was managed in Islamabad. We humbly submit that this information is untrue. The honourable chief justice can have it all investigated in whatever way he wants to. It will be an honour for us if he does so.”

The Jang-Geo spokesman said: “We are extremely saddened and sorry for having inadvertently created such an unfortunate situation. Neither our reporters had any such intention nor can the organisation ever think of doing so. Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman and his staff working for the Group have great respect for the country’s laws, judiciary and parliament and can never think of going against them. If the honourable chief justice called certain part of the news item as incorrect, we submit ourselves before him in agreement. We regret from the core of our heart that it was published.”

On Wednesday, the honourable chief justice asked as to why The News had not published the clarification, which Jang newspaper had. According to the Jang-Geo spokesman while the honoured chief justice was in the know of publishing of the clarification by Jang, he, because of him being very busy, might not have seen a front-page announcement in The News saying that the English-language daily would carry one in its Thursday’s edition.

On Wednesday, the honourable chief justice once again talked about placing Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman’s on the exit control list (ECL). Speaking to a Geo News correspondent, the honourable chief justice said that if Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman did not get the clarification published in The News, he would call him to the Supreme Court’s registry in Karachi and have his video clip run. On the warning of putting Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman’s name on the ECL, the spokesman said the honourable chief justice did have the authority to do so. He, however, clarified that the Jang-Geo Group had not violated any such constitutional or legal provision as would warrant such a warning. But despite this, the honourable chief justice kept warning of ordering the police and other law enforcers to produce Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman in court. In fact, there was talk of his appearance before the court during the day but was told in the evening that it was not required. Exaggerated appearance of the news items about the warnings in a certain section of the media created an impression that Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman was some sort of a big criminal who was defying the court orders.

The spokesman, however, said they would welcome running of the video clip. “Not only would it provide your honour a chance to know the whole truth, but would put every word said by Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman in its context and so, would surely disappoint our adversaries. However, no news item featuring the content of the video clip was reported by any newspaper or television channel owned by our group. It shows how deeply we respect honoured judges. However, some other TV channels ran it quite frequently without being slapped an action against them obviously because it did not contain anything that the court would deem objectionable.”

The Jang-Geo spokesman said that while the honourable chief justice had contradicted all news items that the Group’s and some other newspapers and television channels had published or aired, to uncover the so-called conspiracy (if there is any), it would be pertinent to investigate why these publications or tv channels had attributed similar quotes to the honourable chief justice so that the person really responsible for such a situation could be recognized for the record to be put straight.

The spokesman said certain television channels kept airing news items about Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman having been called by the Supreme Court for appearance but he did not receive any written or oral notice to this effect. “Such news items, however, created an impression that Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman was disobeying the court. A section of the media laid whatever the honourable CJP had said on thick, giving it their own meaning to serve their nefarious designs and so, incessantly indulged in Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman’s media trial.”

The spokesman said the section of the media that was exploiting the publication of the news item by The News and Jang to vilify the group, had itself carried it with all the fanfare. “This is the second time that the court took notice of a news item that almost all the newspapers and television channels had reported but called only the Jang Group to court sparing all others. We acknowledge the judiciary’s services to the society and the country and the positive role it has played. As our past testifies, we have always been at the forefront of the campaign for the independence of judiciary. However, we cannot help saying that some remarks by certain members of the judiciary, despite having no legal value unless they form a part of some court order, cause problems for certain institutions and individuals in serving as triggers for media trials of the people affected by them against which they find no recourse. This has been happening in Pakistan for years.”

The spokesman said the situation necessitated setting up of some platform for providing immediate redress to such aggrieved people. “The journalists associated with our group are compelled to ponder as to why only the news items they have worked on are being objected to.”

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