In its response to a petition seeking accountability of journalists, the Supreme Court on Tuesday issued notices to all media house owners, advertising agencies, Pakistan Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) and real estate tycoon Malik Riaz for August 27.
A two-member bench comprising Justice Jawwad S Khawaja and Justice Khilji Arif Hussain also gave the respondents seven days to submit their replies to the petition filed by prominent journalists and TV anchors Hamid Mir of ‘Capital Talk’ and Absar Alam of ‘Bottom Line with Absar Alam’.
Seeking the formation of an accountability commission for journalists, both Mir and Alam elaborated on the contents of the petition which calls for the financial scrutiny of not only journalists but also of owners of media organisations. They also highlighted discrepancies in the code of conduct of ethics for journalists formulated by Pemra.
While the legal adviser of Pemra stressed on the effectiveness on the code of conduct presently in place, Justice Khawaja remained unimpressed. “We are not denying the existence of a code of conduct, but it is not comprehensive,” remarked the Supreme Court judge.
“What action was taken when the programme of Malik Riaz was aired on Dunya TV,” questioned Justice Jawwad of the controversial interview — leaked footage on the internet of which suggested the questions were planted.
After the hearing, Mir and Alam spoke to journalists outside the court and reiterated the need for holding journalists and media house owners accountable.
“Everyone should know the sources of income of Pakistani journalists, TV anchors, media house owners and advertising agencies,” said Mir. He added advertising agencies are mentioned in the petition “to investigate how the government gives undue favours to some media organisations through advertisements.”
He also called for the scrutiny of secret funds allotted to ministries, alleging that such funds are used to “manipulate the media.”
He stressed the petition wasn’t meant to target any particular person or organisation and was filed to protect the media’s credibility. “If anyone has any kind of proof against us, it should be provided to the Supreme Court,” said Mir in an indirect reference to accusations against him of receiving money from real estate magnate Riaz.
Alam maintained the media’s role was to bring a positive change in the society, which is only possible if its own operations are transparent. “The culprits amongst us should be brought to justice.”
The hearing has been adjourned till August 27.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 1st, 2012.