Petition of Hamid Mir and Absar alam for Media Accountability


BEFORE THE SUPREME COURT OF PAKISTAN
(Constitutional Original Jurisdiction)
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Constitutional Petition No. ____ of 2012
 
 
 
 
 
 
1.      Hamid Mir
son of late Professor Waris Mir
resident of House 498, Street 32
E – 11/3, Islamabad
 
2.      Absar Alam Haider
son of Khurshid Alam
resident of House 316, Street 20,
F – 11/2, Islamabad
 
 
Versus
 
1.      Federation of Pakistan
through Secretary Ministry of Information and Broadcasting
4th Floor, Cabinet Block, Pakistan Secretariat
Government of Pakistan
Islamabad.
 
2.      Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority
PEMRA Headquarters, Mauve Area, G – 8/1
Islamabad, through its Chairman.
 
3.      Pakistan Telecommunication Authority
PTA Headquarters, F – 5/1
Islamabad, through its Chairman.
 
4.      Bahria Town (Pvt.) Ltd.
through its Chairman Ali Riaz Malik
Corporate Head Office, Phase II
Bahria Town, Rawalpindi.
 
5.      Malik Riaz Hussain
former Chairman Bahria Town (Pvt.) Ltd.
Corporate Head Office, Phase II
Bahria Town, Rawalpindi.
 
6.      Federal Board of Revenue
FBR House, Constitution Avenue
G – 5, Islamabad, through its Chairman.
 
7.      Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan
NIC Building, Jinnah Avenue
Islamabad, through its Chairman.
 
8.      Federal Investigation Agency
Mauve Area, Islamabad
through its Director General.
 
 
 
 
CONSTITUTIONAL PETITION under Article 184(3) of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, 1973
 
 
Respectfully sheweth:
 
 
1.      That Petitioner No. 1 is a law abiding citizen of Pakistan and has been associated with the print and electronic media for the last about 25 years.  The Petitioner No. 1 has been imbued with a spirit of journalism since his childhood as his father late Professor Waris Mir taught journalism at the University of Punjab, Lahore.  It is submitted that Petitioner No. 1 completed his Masters in Journalism from the University of Punjab, Lahore and became Editor of Newspaper Daily Pakistan in 1996 at the age of 30, thereafter, Petitioner No. 1 performed duties in various leading newspapers as Reporter, Editor and Columnist.  Petitioner No. 1 served as Bureau Chief of GEO News at Islamabad from 2002 until 2007 and is currently the Executive Editor of GEO News along with writing a regular column for Newspaper Daily Jang.  It is submitted that Petitioner No. 1 has received the All Pakistan Newspapers Society (APNS) award for best Urdu columnist in 1998 at the age of 32, South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) Life Time Achievement award in 2010 and the most popular TV Anchor award by AGAHI in 2012.  Petitioner No. 1 has been invited by Harvard University, Yale University, Graduate School of Journalism, California, London School of Economics and all prominent universities in Pakistan to lecture students on the role and responsibilities of the media.  Petitioner No. 1 was banned by the Musharraf regime for four months after imposition of emergency in 2007 for advocating the rule of law, however, Petitioner No. 1 did not back down and conducted his shows in the open.  Petitioner No. 1 has conducted various programs pertaining to corruption, misuse of office and other social issues upon which this Hon’ble Court has successfully taken up Suo Motu actions delivering justice.
 
2.      That Petitioner No. 2 is a law abiding citizen of Pakistan and has been associated with the print and electronic media for the last about 22 years.  It is submitted that Petitioner No. 2 has worked with Newspapers, The Muslim from 1990 to 1997, The Nation (Nawai Waqt Group) from 1997 to 2000 and Electronic Media, GEO News from 2007 to 2008, Dunya News 2008 to 2009 and currently with AAJ News.  It is further submitted that Petitioner No. 2 is a Fellow of the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University, the oldest fellowship program for journalists in the world, and has contributed to international publications including the New York Times, Boston Globe, Tokyo Shimbun and Al – Ahram of Egypt.  It is pertinent to mention that on the fateful day of 3 November 2007 when the second martial law was imposed against the superior judiciary Petitioner No. 2 made it a point to be standing in front of the Supreme Court of Pakistan building in order to do his duty to the people of Pakistan.
 
3.      That the struggle for an independent judiciary saw mobilization of the lawyer community and the civil society backed by the print and electronic media known collectively as the Lawyer’s Movement, it succeeded not only in ensuring restoration of the superior court judges but also administered a coup de grace to a relic of the past; a dictator and usurper of the Constitution along with his acolytes in the civil – military bureaucracy, PCO tainted judges and his political supporters.
 
4.      That since those fateful days the independent judiciary and a free media have stood their ground under constant onslaught by the establishment of the day, the civil – military bureaucracy and those that operate from the shadows calling themselves the so – called last line of defense for Pakistan.  It is submitted that free media has been responsible for bringing to fore numerous scandals upon which the independent judiciary has acted with an iron fist recovering billions and exposing corruption.  The free media has always stood by the golden principle of the rule of law rather than the rule of King Rex Lex and sought to educate the people of Pakistan in this respect.
 
5.      That the fate of a free and independent media is inextricably entwined with the role of an independent judiciary.  The independent judiciary may yet survive with a compliant media but the converse cannot hold to be true.  Only an independent judiciary and a free media stand between complete lawlessness, anarchy, mis – governance, lack of information and corruption. 
 
6.      That the events of the last month or so in effect have proved that the independence of judiciary and media is something the so called establishment finds difficult to swallow and, therefore, every attempt is being made to malign and discredit them, both.  It is specifically averred that this entire saga of castigating the judiciary has in fact been engineered by those that operate from the shadows with the help of certain disgruntled individuals and/or public office holders who have been unable to manipulate the institution of judiciary.
 
7.      That the events of the last month or so, culminating in Suo Motu Case No. 5 of 2012, are evidence that the forces of status quo have taken it upon themselves to militate against the independent judiciary and those who wish and endeavor for a free media.  It is submitted that in developed countries, world over, an independent judiciary is an essential and formal pillar of the state while the print and electronic media is an informal pillar upholding the edifice of the state acting as its conscience.  In Pakistan the independent judiciary has only just taken up that constitutional role while the free media is yet to cement its continued right to such role.
 
8.      That it is in these terms that the events of the last month or so have momentous ramifications for the survival of a free media as the much touted word of accountability, constantly brandished by the media, is as applicable to it as to other organs and citizens of the state.
 
9.      That during the course of proceedings in Suo Motu Case No. 5 of 2012 Petitioner No. 1 was summoned by this Hon’ble Court to depose upon oath as to the veracity of the information vis a vis the allegations against the apex Court and while so deposing Petitioner No. 1 laid before this Hon’ble Court the complete picture of the weak factual nature of the allegations so leveled.  It is submitted that after the aforesaid deposition on 05.06.2012 a fake list started making rounds firstly via SMS (Short Message Service) of journalists that allegedly were on the payroll of Respondent Nos. 4 and 5 and, thereafter, the same list appeared on social media websites on the letterhead of Respondent No. 4.  It is further submitted that the timing of the said release of list was in fact engineered to malign Petitioner No. 1 and also to preempt any further disclosures against Respondent Nos. 4 and 5 by tainting the image of the said individuals on that list.  It is averred that this Hon’ble Court may summon Respondent No. 3 and inquire as to the veracity, origin and timing of such a list both via SMS and on social media websites and what steps if any were taken by the said regulator in terms of verifying its contents and/or its rightful blockage.
(Copy of list of journalists, Blog Articles, Pakistan Herald and Newsline Magazine attached herewith as Annex: A to G)
10.  That the only conclusion that may be drawn from the events of the last month or so is that certain individuals, in a Byzantium conspiracy, at the behest of the so called establishment sought to malign and taint the image of the apex Court and the free and independent media and such an attempt is a matter of utmost public importance affecting the fundamental rights of not only the Petitioner but of this nation.
 
11.  That the right to information is a constitutionally guaranteed right under Article 19 A of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, 1973.  It is averred that it resultantly lays a duty at the door of the print and electronic media being the purveyors of information to act in a judicious and balanced manner.
 
12.  That the current Code of Conduct formulated under Regulation 24 of the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (TV/Radio Broadcast Operations) Regulations, 2002, is hardly a code sufficient for regulating the conduct of the media broadcasters or cable tv operators.  It is further submitted that the said Code of Conduct does not come up to the standards imposed by the Preamble of the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority Ordinance, 2002, which specifically states:‘WHEREAS, it is expedient to provide for the development of electronic media in order to:- (i) improve the standards of information, education and entertainment; … (iv) ensure accountability, transparency and good governance by optimizing the free flow of information;’.  It is submitted that the PEMRA has been mandated under section 19(5) of the PEMRA Ordinance, 2002, to devise a Code of Conduct for programs and advertisements for compliance by the licensees, therefore, formulating such Code of Conduct under the said Regulations rather than the Ordinance is in fact illegal as the said Regulation 24 does not empower PEMRA to formulate such Code of Conduct.  It is further submitted that the said Code of Conduct formulated under the said Regulations of 2002 suffers from another defect as the said Regulations of 2002 were so made under the PEMRA Ordinance, 2002 and Rule 30 of the PEMRA Rules, 2002.  The said PEMRA Rules, 2002 have since been replaced by the PEMRA Rules, 2009 and no longer contain Rule 30 which even otherwise only granted Regulation making powers.  However, the Code of Conduct being a statutory mandate should have been so exercised by virtue of the Ordinance giving power rather than relying on Rules and Regulations.
 
13.  That the Petitioners having worked for over two decades with a number of influential media houses are privy to the manner in which such large media houses operate and are, therefore, invoking the extraordinary constitutional original jurisdiction of this Hon’ble Court to assert their constitutional right to information which must be deemed to be a right to true, fair and unbiased information.  It is submitted that ethics must be writ into the body of media law in Pakistan and must culminate into a comprehensive Code of Conduct regulating the print and electronic media and the associated journalists.  The job of an honest journalist such as the Petitioners is to raise fingers at, accuse and hold accountable those who hold public office at the will of the people and those democratically elected leaders are mandated by the virtue of their job to be put all sorts of questions be they personal or otherwise.  The events of the past month or so have shown us that certain people in the electronic media thought that they could extend the same treatment to the highest judicial office of the state of Pakistan and thereby hold the people of Pakistan hostage to the illusion that the integrity of the country’s superior judiciary was compromised.  Such an illusion may not be dismissed lightly for the people of Pakistan must remain steadfast in their belief of the freedom and independence of the superior judiciary otherwise this façade of civilization will all but crumble and, therefore, it is clear that any attempt to accuse an Hon’ble Judge of the Superior Courts must be thoroughly examined, verified, checked and double checked.
 
14.  That the Petitioners journalists by choice feels that recent disclosures of anchor persons, producers and owners of a private television channel stand exposed hobnobbing with Respondent No. 5 a property developer of dubious character and that this single act has destroyed the credibility of the whole media and further the public has lost confidence and trust in the electronic media.  It is submitted that with a view to restoring the image of honest media persons, an institution which has the ability to steer Pakistan towards a better course of change it is imperative that the owners, producers, anchor persons and journalists associated with large media groups/houses must declare their assets, statements of income and wealth tax.  It is further submitted that owners of television channels must declare their political affiliation if any, their sources of income and revenue, the extent of government patronage in the form of advertising and such other influential and wealthy patronage from private individuals, political parties and/or agencies, if any.  Only such disclosure can ensure that the said television channels/media houses maintain a balance while disseminating information thus making it un biased and true.
 
15.  That it would further be in the fitness of things if the said Respondent Nos. 5 and 4 be summoned before this Hon’ble Court and be directed to produce documents in order to prove the allegations he/they have made, directly or indirectly, against providing benefits in form of cash, cars and plots to journalists, military officials, bureaucrats and other individuals.  It is therefore essential that these charges of bribery, gratification and provision of plots be brought to the fore and for that purpose the complete record of Respondent No. 4 may be scrutinized and made public by Respondent No. 5 along with his own bank account details and also whether any cash or illegal gratification has exchanged hands for the purposes of buying favors, ever.
 
16.  That it is essential that this rags to riches story of Respondent Nos. 4 and 5 be also made public as to how an ordinary person over the course of less than two decades has become one of the richest men in Pakistan with the openly admitted ability to buy favors at the highest echelons of power and to get his way.  It is further submitted that the dubious nature of the land acquisitions by Respondent Nos. 4 and 5 is living proof of their reach and ability in manipulating the executive process and public officials who are hand in glove in his success and the loss caused to poor landowners who have been deprived.  It is specifically averred that a certain criminal element has also been aiding and abetting Respondent Nos. 4 and 5 acting as their muscle and been active in forcibly taking over physical possession of land and this element must also be exposed.
 
17.  That after the recent disclosures this loss of credibility and face before the public is not a good omen for the media and the country because in a democratic state the media by default is considered a pillar of the state and, therefore, has a role to play to ensure accountability, transparency and good governance by bringing the unpolluted truth to the people of the country and informing them how their elected governments and other organs of the state are performing.  It is submitted that if at this stage in our history the print and electronic media is not purged of the black sheep then as an institution it shall have wasted all the sacrifices rendered by successive generations since the printing press was introduced to the sub – continent and, where after, countless journalists have rendered numerous sacrifices in life, blood and sweat for a free and independent media.  It is specifically averred that a story appearing in Newsline Magazine is what forms the basis of such allegations etc. and is, therefore, annexed with the instant Petition.
 
18.  That if the government were to adhere to the Freedom of Information Ordinance, 2002 in letter and spirit most of the elements of bias and extent of truthfulness would be fulfilled as then each and every document so obtained by any citizen or journalist would have the sanction of the state and, therefore, there would remain no room for sensational journalism.
 
19.  That the establishment and maintenance by Respondent No. 1 of a secret fund is another matter which needs to be thoroughly examined as the purpose of such a fund can only be dubious as it is used by the government of the time for buying certain elements of the print and electronic media.  The Federation of Pakistan must make public the exact amount constituting such fund and its nature and purpose.  It is submitted that the maintenance of such fund is illegal and unconstitutional and further in derogation of every fundamental right guaranteed under the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.  It is specifically averred that this Hon’ble Court may direct Respondent No. 1 to present a complete record of the secret fund and how much monies have been doled out to the various elements of the print and electronic media and for which purpose.  And for reasons which form an open secret such funds have been increased manifold to destroy judiciary and the honest elements in media.
 
20.  That a well known hushed up scam of misusing government funds in recent history by Government of Punjab is that of M/s MIDAS (Pvt.) Ltd. Inquiry  of which has been put on the back burner because the same is allegedly influenced by owners of media houses.  The DG Anti Corruption Punjab may kindly be asked why they have not proceeded against the said MIDAS.  It is further submitted that the said scam was to the tune of Rs. 640 Million and the same was highlighted and put before the Hon’ble Chief Justice by the Transparency International Pakistan.
 
21.  That this Petition raises significant questions of public importance pertaining to the enforcement of fundamental rights conferred by Chapter 1 of Part II of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan:
 
a.      Whether the right to freedom of speech guaranteed under Article 19 of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, 1973, does not also place on the same pedestal the freedom of the press also guaranteed under the same Article?
b.      Whether the freedom of the press a constitutionally guaranteed right can in fact be effective unless the print and electronic media is not regulated by a comprehensive code of conduct having the force of law?
c.       Whether with the explosion of the electronic media and the existence of the print media and their role in formulating opinion is not a code of conduct necessary for ensuring that no action detrimental to reputation shall be taken except in accordance with law as enshrined under Article 4 of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan?
d.     Whether the people of Pakistan do not have the right to unbiased and correct information and is that not a right to a non – vegetative life as enshrined under Article 9 read with Article 19A of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan?
e.      Whether the proliferation of the mass media and its hold on society a balance is not necessary for ensuring the inviolability of the dignity of the people of Pakistan as under Article 14 of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan?
f.        Whether the secret fund established and maintained by the Respondent No. 1 can be deemed to be constitutional and legal under any provision of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan or any law for the time being in force?
g.      Whether the right to equality before law and the equal protection of law under Article 25 of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan can be effective without a free and independent print and electronic media?
 
22.  That it may not be out of place for this Hon’ble Court to constitute a National Media Commission that can look into all allegations and inquire about all stakeholders including the Federal Government, Provincial Governments, prominent journalists, media house owners, independent journalists, role of agencies, etc. and thereby expose the black sheep amongst their fraternity who have damaged this noble career and profession  and attempted to malign the judiciary through the illegally gotten and amassed wealth by Respondent Nos. 4 and 5.
 
23.  That the print and electronic media needs to be regulated by a comprehensive Code of Conduct based upon international standards effectively encapsulating the following ingredients that are a hallmark for all international journalist associations:
 
·        Report and interpret honestly, striving for accuracy, fairness and disclosure of all essential facts.  Not suppress relevant available facts, or give distorting emphasis.  Do utmost to give a fair opportunity for reply.
·        Do not place unnecessary emphasis on personal characteristics, including race, ethnicity, nationality, gender, age, family relationships, or physical or intellectual disability.
·        Aim to attribute information to its source.  Where a source seeks anonymity, do not agree without first considering the source’s motives and any alternative attributable source.  Where confidences are accepted, respect them in all circumstances.
·        Do not allow personal interest, or any belief, commitment, payment, gift or benefit, to undermine accuracy, fairness or independence.
·        Disclose conflicts of interest that affect, or could be seen to affect, the accuracy, fairness or independence of your journalism.  Do not improperly use a journalistic position for personal gain.  
·        Do not allow advertising or other commercial considerations to undermine accuracy, fairness or independence.
·        Do utmost to ensure disclosure of any direct or indirect payment made for interviews, pictures, information or stories.
·        Use fair, responsible and honest means to obtain material.  Identify yourself and your employer before obtaining any interview for publication or broadcast.  Never exploit a person’s vulnerability or ignorance of media practice.
·        Present pictures and sound which are true and accurate.  Any manipulation likely to mislead should not be disclosed.
·        Do not plagiarize.
·        Respect private grief and personal privacy.  Journalists have the right to resist compulsion to intrude.
·        Do utmost to achieve fair correction of errors.
 
24.  That it is submitted that the aforesaid is not a comprehensive code of conduct and Respondents No. 1 & 2 may make further suggestions to fortify it and so that it may not be a suggestive code of conduct but rather one that has the force of law ensuring that it is followed by all and sundry.
 
25.  That this Hon’ble Court may direct Respondent No. 1/Federation of Pakistan to issue a directive under section 5 of the PEMRA Ordinance, 2002, to PEMRA so as to formulate a comprehensive Code of Conduct/Ethics Rules in order to better regulate the television and radio broadcast operations.
 
GROUNDS
 
a.      That the right to information under Article 19 A of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan is not a right simpliciter but a right to unbiased, corroborated, correct and true information.
 
b.      That a strict adherence to section 7 of the Freedom of Information Ordinance, 2002, read with Article 19 A of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, 1973, would render most sources of public information verified and true thereby leaving no room for one sided reporting/journalism.
 
c.       That the right to a non – vegetative life as enshrined under Article 9 of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, settled by this Hon’ble Court, read along with Article 19A of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan in fact means that the public has the right to unbiased and correct information and for that purpose a comprehensive code of ethics and standards is needed to ensure that purpose.
 
d.     That further Article 9 read with Article 19A should make it mandatory upon the public officials/officers to not withhold any information demanded by a journalist or media house unless it is a matter relating to the security of Pakistan or to the defense of Pakistan or pertaining to Pakistan’s the relations with other states.  It is submitted that the people of Pakistan have through the print and electronic media, the purveyors of information, a fundamental right to be provided correct and unbiased information by the public office holders.
 
e.      That a comprehensive Code of Conduct enacted with all stake holders of the print and electronic media read along with Article 4 of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan would in fact give full effect to the provisions of the said Article mandating that ‘no action detrimental to the … reputation… shall be taken except in accordance with law;’ and in the modern age where the print and electronic media purveys information it is necessary that such a code of conduct be formulated in order not only to protect the citizens of Pakistan but also journalists themselves from baseless allegations.
 
f.        That recent spate of allegations and counter allegations vis a vis the print and electronic media means in effect that the dignity of man guaranteed by the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan under Article 14 is now violable and therefore necessary steps are needed to ensure its inviolability.
 
g.      That allegations by certain persons of having bought influence with journalists is in fact a derogation of the right to free speech of the people of Pakistan as enshrined in the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan under Article 19 which right is primarily exercised on behalf of the people of Pakistan by the print and electronic media.  Therefore, any such allegations by individuals attempting to malign any individual in the print and electronic media must either be proven or taken back along with an apology.
 
h.      That the so called secret fund established and maintained by the Respondent No. 1 is derogatory of every fundamental right in the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan and reeks of corruption the purpose of which is only for the government to buy favor with certain elements of the print and electronic media.  Such a fund is illegal and needs to be made public so that it can be used in a judicious manner.
 
i.        That the right of equality before law and the equal protection of law cannot actually be effective without the existence of a free and independent print and electronic media one that is devoid of outside influence.
 
j.        That certain individuals at the behest of the establishment attempting to malign and taint the image of the apex Court and the free and independent media was an unconstitutional and illegal act.
 
 
26.  That the Petitioners feel that this is a matter of public importance the nature of which deems that only this Hon’ble Court may look into it and form a national media commission in order to right the wrongs, devise a code of conduct and take such other steps to ensure the freedom and independence of the media.
 
27.  That the Petitioners having no other alternate efficacious remedy have been left with no choice but to invoke the constitutional original jurisdiction of this Hon’ble Court.
 
PRAYER
 
That this Hon’ble Court may be pleased to adjudicate and inquire into the aforesaid issues itself or in the alternative constitute a commission to have the same investigated.
 
That this Hon’ble Court may direct Respondent Nos. 4 and 5 to appear along with proof of all the persons; journalists, military officials, bureaucrats and any other individuals whom they have tried, directly or indirectly, to buy favors from.  Respondent No. 6 may further be directed to produce the assets and income statements of all media persons under scrutiny and question.
 
That this Hon’ble Court may direct Respondent No. 7 to inquire into and produce the record of Respondent No. 4 and direct Respondent No. 8 to inquire into who spread the fake or genuine lists of media persons on social media.
 
That this Hon’ble Court may direct that Respondent No. 5 be  inquired into with respect to him illegally obliging the media owners, anchors and/or journalists.
 
That there should be an impartial investigation into why the huge scam of PKR 640 Million has been hushed up by the Anti – Corruption department in the province of Punjab.
 
Any other relief that this Hon’ble Court may deem necessary and fit under the circumstances of the Petition may also graciously be granted.
 
 
DRAWN AND FILED BY:
 
M.S. KHATTAK
Advocate on Record
Supreme Court of Pakistan
Islamabad
 
Dated: ____ July 2012
 
 
As per instructions, it is the first Constitutional Petition, under Article 184(3) of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, filed before this Hon’ble Court.  The Petitioners have not previously filed Writ Petition in the High Court under Article 199 of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.
 
Advocate on Record
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