SC constitutes five-member larger bench to hear journalists' harassment case

The bench will be headed by Acting Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Umar Atta Bandial


Hasnaat Malik August 21, 2021
PHOTO: AFP/FILE

ISLAMABAD:

The Supreme Court on Saturday constituted a five-member larger bench, headed by Acting Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Umar Atta Bandial, to hear the journalists' harassment case in a bid to provide clarity in respect of invocation of its suo motu jurisdiction, according to a court order.

The two-member bench of the apex court on Friday had passed an order, on an application requiring action against harassment of journalists in Pakistan.

The two-member bench had issued notices to federal as well as provincial government authorities, law officers of federation and provinces and issued directions to fix the matter for August 26 before the same bench.

Read more: FIA’s practice of ‘calling to office sans reason harassment’

Noting deviation of the said directions from the established practice of the court and in order to obtain clarity, the court order read, a five-member larger bench, headed by Justice Umar Atta has been constituted to hear the case on Monday.

The other members of the bench included Justice Ijaz ul Ahsan, Justice Munib Akhbar, Justice Qazi Muhammad Amin Ahmad and Justice Muhammad Ali Mazhar, it added.

On Friday, the top court had summoned the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) director general over his department allegedly harassing media personnel.

Also read: FIA DG told to explain journos’ ‘harassment’

"The FIA appears to have overstepped its legal mandate and … undermined the peoples’ confidence in the judiciary, which is the guarantor of fundamental rights,” read a five-page order authored by Justice Qazi Faez Isa over an application submitted by the Press Association of Supreme Court (PAS).

“By such tactics, the respect, regard and confidence of the people in the judiciary may be undermined and [it] may also be disrespected and portrayed as standing with FIA,” it added.

Earlier this month, the FIA had arrested two senior journalists in Lahore for their "disrespectful attitude" against the Pakistan Army, the judiciary and women.

In a statement, it added that the two suspects had been released on bail while the investigation against them would continue.

The SC noted that the FIA DG, whose permission was necessary for issuance of the statement, should disclose who authorised it mentioning the word “judiciary” and submit to the court a written explanation about why he did not retract it later.

"The FIA DG is also directed to be present in-person in court along with the entire original record of the cases against journalists in respect of whom the press release was issued and is further directed to submit a complete list of cases filed against journalists,” the order read.

“[The] list should specify the actual content -- that is the transcript of the text -- which the FIA deemed to constitute an offence," it added.

The court also issued notice to the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) through its chairman on complaints that journalists were not allowed to work freely and pursue their careers.

“[The PEMRA chairman] is directed to submit his written response disclosing action taken against the media houses/television channels which resort to such tactics,” the order read.

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