A petition was filed by an advocate in the Supreme Court of Pakistan on Thursday against journalists and media organisations for ‘defaming’ Pakistan’s armed forces and its top spy agency. He submitted to the court that the armed forces and the intelligence agencies are responsible for defending the geographical and ideological boundaries of Pakistan and that elements from the print and electronic media are “out to destabilize and de-nuclearise Pakistan.”
The petitioner called upon the apex court to declare that the “freedom of press and expression is not absolute and is subject to restriction and limitations … as mandated by article 19 of the constitution.”
The petitioner, a former deputy attorney-general of Pakistan and ex-additional secretary of Supreme Court Bar Association Advocate Sardar Muhammad Ghazi, included the publisher and editor of The Express Tribune among its respondents, for publishing an opinion piece by journalist Ejaz Haider titled “An open letter to General Pasha” on June 8, 2011.
The piece, written “in the wake of the gruesome and gratuitous murder of Syed Saleem Shahzad,” called upon the chief of army staff to “understand the deep fault lines developing in [the] state [of Pakistan.]”
The petition also included Secretary Information and Pakistan Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) as respondents.
In the petition, Ghazi prayed to the court that “the federation and Pemra may be directed to enforce the code of conduct in Pemra rules and ban Najam Sethi and Hamid Mir for six months.”
Ghazi called for the cancellation of The Express Tribune’s declaration and Geo Television Network’s license, in addition to calling for the imposition of a cash penalty on Ejaz Haider.
The petitioner also asked the court to direct Najam Sethi, Hamid Mir, Ejaz Haider, Geo TV and the editor of The Express Tribune “to stop propagating against the armed forces and the premier spy agency.”
Ghazi added that “the whole media may be restrained from criticising the armed forces and intelligence agencies” and asked the Supreme Court lay down guidelines for media to protect these institutions from ‘baseless criticism.’
Published in The Express Tribune, June 24th, 2011.
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