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pakistan
Wednesday Jul 26 2017
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Contempt not committed, notice be withdrawn, Jang Group asks SC

ISLAMABAD: The Jang Group says it has not committed contempt and it’s beyond its imagination to think of subscribing to any sort of notion which has the potential to be detrimental to the administration of justice, respect of judges or has a remote possibility of being contemptuous.

It said the Jang Group was determined to maintaining efforts for upholding the independence and dignity of the judiciary and supremacy of the Constitution and law and cannot even think of ridiculing the judges.

In its reply submitted in the contempt notice, Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman and Mir Javed Rahman, Editor-in-Chief and Publisher/Printer Jang Group, submitted that the Jang Group was committed to maintaining efforts for upholding the independence and dignity of the judiciary and supremacy of the Constitution.

The Jang Group contended that none of the acts or omissions mentioned in the contempt notice are contemptuous towards the court or the honourable judges and prayed the apex court to withdraw the contempt notice.honourable judges and prayed the apex court to withdraw the contempt notice.

A three-member bench of the Supreme Court, headed by Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan and comprising Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed and Justice Ijazul Ahsen, while hearing the Panama Papers case on July 10 had issued contempt of court notices to the Jang Group Editor-in-Chief Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman, Publisher/Printer Mir Javed Rahman and The News reporter Ahmed Noorani for misrepresenting its order on June 20, 2017 relating to an application filed by Hussain Nawaz seeking two reliefs including stopping the JIT from video recording of the proceedings relating to examination and interrogation of the witnesses.Ahsen, while hearing the Panama Papers case on July 10 had issued contempt of court notices to the Jang Group Editor-in-Chief Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman, Publisher/Printer Mir Javed Rahman and The News reporter Ahmed Noorani for misrepresenting its order on June 20, 2017 relating to an application filed by Hussain Nawaz seeking two reliefs including stopping the JIT from video recording of the proceedings relating to examination and interrogation of the witnesses.

In his second plea, Hussain Nawaz had requested constitution of a commission to inquire into the circumstances leading to the leakage of his footage, which the court had deferred until a reply from Attorney General viz-a-viz the inquiry report as to the leakage of image was received.image was received.

The court had directed Mir-Shakil-ur-Rahman, Mir Javed Rahman and Ahmed Noorani to submit their replies and asked them to appear before it in-person.in-person.

On Tuesday, in pursuance of the court order, Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman, Mir Javed Rahman and Ahmed Noorani appeared before the court.

Advocate-on-Record (AOR) Arshad Ali Chaudhry appeared before the court and submitted that in pursuance of the court’s order, the respondents had filed their respective replies but said they wanted more time to submit some additional material with the reply. The court accepted the plea and directed the Jang Group editor-in-chief, publisher/printer and reporter to submit further reply until August 22.

The court also directed them to appear in-person on the next date of hearing.Meanwhile, Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman sought the court permission to make some submissions which was granted.was granted.

Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman said on behalf of all editors and reporters it brought him a rude shock when the apex court made an observation about the Jang Group, observing that the court knew on whose instructions the news had been published by the group.

“With utmost respect, I must say if our staff asks me at whose behest I am publishing stories, then I will ask them at whose behest they are asking this question,” Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman said but contended that he could not ask the court as well.

He further submitted that the court had also sought details of advertisements issued to the group in three months. He said the Jang Group had the largest circulation in the country and its readership and viewership was greater having the largest market ratings adding the volume of advertisements would also be greater.

He informed the court that owing to its popularity and highest readership and viewership, even the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government also issued advertisements to the Jang Group. Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman requested the court to summon the record of advertisements of five years and also the record of advertisements issued by the previous government.

Justice Ijazul Ahsen observed that advertisement was not the issue but related to publication of wrong news. He said the court order was misrepresented and wrong information was disseminated and the JIT was deliberately targeted.publication of wrong news. He said the court order was misrepresented and wrong information was disseminated and the JIT was deliberately targeted.Ahsen observed that advertisement was not the issue but related to publication of wrong news. He said the court order was misrepresented and wrong information was disseminated and the JIT was deliberately targeted.

“Not only the JIT, but also this court was targeted,” Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed observed, telling Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman he had better defended himself through his lawyer. Justice Ijaz Afzal observed that they had noted his submissions and he would be given an opportunity to defend.JIT, but also this court was targeted,” Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed observed, telling Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman he had better defended himself through his lawyer. Justice Ijaz Afzal observed that they had noted his submissions and he would be given an opportunity to defend.

Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman submitted that he considered all the news published by the Jang Group as true, adding that his editors said that all the stories published so far had proved true, arguing that the court could have taken notice of these stories if they were false.

He said only one story was not correct for which the group tendered an unconditional apology. He said he regretted publishing the incorrect news item. Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed said he could give him an example, saying that before the court received the JIT report the Jang Group published it first and when its report was bounced it tendered an apology.

Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman contended that if his organisation had run wrong stories then the court should also take notice of the news published about the ISI and WhatsApp issue so that he could admonish our staff for it.organisation had run wrong stories then the court should also take notice of the news published about the ISI and WhatsApp issue so that he could admonish our staff for it.

Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed said the court considered freedom of press as supreme and in most of his judgments he had ruled bearing unfair criticism. He said unnecessary criticism was unaffordable and the court summons people for registering complaints in this regard.unnecessary criticism was unaffordable and the court summons people for registering complaints in this regard.press as supreme and in most of his judgments he had ruled bearing unfair criticism. He said unnecessary criticism was unaffordable and the court summons people for registering complaints in this regard.

Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman requested the court to include the remarks in its order sheet so that it could come on record.

Justice Azmat replied that they will include the remarks in the instant case order sheet but said he should ensure that he will not give an application for expunging the remarks from the order sheet.

Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman contended that the order passed by the court on June 20 was also misrepresented by other newspapers as well as the electronic media but why action was not taken against them.

“After all the reporters are human beings and can commit mistakes,” Mir Shakilur Rahman contended. Justice Ijazul Ahsen said freedom of expression was supreme but the court could not allow mudslinging.Ahsen said freedom of expression was supreme but the court could not allow mudslinging.

In its reply, Jang Group contended that The News correctly reported the entire order dated June 20, 2017, of the Supreme Court. The heading of this reporting was in consonance with the Court Order as: "SC dismisses Hussain's plea to halt video recording".

The other part of the order regarding other request of Hussain Nawaz about constituting a commission to inquire into leakage of his image was also correctly reported in The News dated 21-06-2017.other request of Hussain Nawaz about constituting a commission to inquire into leakage of his image was also correctly reported in The News dated 21-06-2017.

First part of the order regarding video recording was correctly reported in Daily Jang also on 21-06-2017; however, the other part of order about leakage of image was reported differently in Daily Jang the same day implying as if other prayer regarding constitution of commission was also dismissed. However, in Daily Jang, on the same day the reporting in consonance with court order was also done.image was reported differently in Daily Jang the same day implying as if other prayer regarding constitution of commission was also dismissed. However, in Daily Jang, on the same day the reporting in consonance with court order was also done.

“This shows that there was no element of malice or want of fairness or of not being faithful in reporting,” says the reply. The court was also informed that several other newspapers also reported about this court order as if complete application was dismissed and evidently, these should also be seen to be 'misrepresenting and not reporting in a fair and faithful manner.

These newspapers included Daily Nawa-e-Waqt, Daily Express Tribune, Daily 92 News, Daily Nai Baat and Daily Jahan-e-Pakistan and understandably several others, says the reply.

Jang Group contended that the situation of reporting of said court order was no different in some of the electronic media channels on 20th June, 2017, as is evident from a simple reading of transcripts of TV channels, Aaj TV, Abtak TV, ARY News, BOL TV, Capital TV, Dunya News, Express News, 92 News, PAK News and Geo News.

They have also reported that the plea of constituting commission to inquire into leak of image of Hussain Nawaz was also rejected. It was further informed that Pakistani news agencies namely NNI, INP, Online, SSK and ANN also provided the above news, saying that both pleas/prayers of Hussain Nawaz were dismissed.

The court was informed that if any onus for 'unfair and unfaithful reporting' was to be attributed to anyone then a comprehensive scrutiny of all electronic media broadcast and news agencies on 20th June 2017, and of print media newspapers of 21st June 2017 should be carried out to avoid discriminatory treatment to only one media group.

“The onus for contempt of court also may please not be attributed without any substance of malicious intent. Innocence in reporting is evident when a comparison of reporting in 'The News' and Daily Jang is made with reporting by other newspapers, TV channels and news agencies,” says the reply.

Jang Group submitted that it had a traceable legacy of struggling for and upholding honour, respect, dignity and independence of the judiciary and rule of law in Pakistan. “It is beyond imagination for Jang Group to think of subscribing to any sort of notion which has the potential to be detrimental to the administration of justice, respect of judges or has a remote possibility of being contemptuous,” the reply contended.

The reply contended that none of the acts or omissions mentioned in the contempt notice are contemptuous towards the court or the honorable judges. However, it says, inconvenience and botheration caused to the honourable court in reporting of its order dated 20-06-2017 in Daily Jang regarding proceedings in CMA No 3986 is deeply regretted with complete honesty of purpose.

The answering respondent sincerely regrets the happenings of the incidents in question and requests that the contempt notice may kindly be withdrawn in the above terms, the reply concluded.

Meanwhile, Ahmed Noorani also filed his reply with the court contending that as a humble journalist in the practical field, he was inspired to approach the honourable judge based on his perception developed over the past years in the field of news reporting. In these incidents, news stories were developed after some substantive input from the honourable judges and this developed his belief that seeking such input from honourable judges was an acceptable norm.

The court during the Panama case hearing on July 10 had observed that one of the reporters associated with Jang Group namely Ahmed Noorani twice contacted one of the judges Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan on landline to inquire about the involvement of ISI in looking after the affairs of JIT. He submitted that he would assure the apex court that he absolutely had no intention whatsoever to commit contempt of this honourable court judge and more particularly of honourable Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan.

“Despite this, I regret the happening of the incident in question,” Norrani submitted. He prayed the apex court that notice under reply may graciously be withdrawn. Ahmed Noorani further submitted that after failing to get correct information regarding an administrative issue pertaining to proceedings of Panama judgement implementation bench from the office of registrar of Supreme Court for two days (July 3 and 4, 2017), he contacted publicly available official landline number of the official residence of Honourable Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan at 8:11pm and 8:14pm on the night of July 4, 2017 with the intention to request the staff available on phone to help and guide him for seeking said information. He said when he dialed first time at 8:11pm on July 4, 2017, instead of staff, honourable Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan himself picked the phone and responded very politely.

“I requested him for five minutes time so I can explain him an issue without giving any details whatsoever during this first call. I am 100 percent sure that if honourable Justice Ejaz Afzal will try to recollect he will definitely recall that during the first call I never asked him anything and just requested for five minutes time to which he responded, ‘yeh mera tareeqa naheen hey shurooh sey hi, main naheen mil sakta’ (This has been my principle from the very beginning that I do not meet people). I thanked him and disconnected the call.”

Noorani submitted that Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan talked to him very politely and treated him with kindness. After disconnecting the call he thought he should ask him about the information he required regarding an administrative issue of the JIT.

“I dialed the same number again at 8:14pm (July 4, 2017) and first of all took his permission to speak to inform him about the issue on phone,” Noorani said, adding that he informed him about his query and neither he disconnected the call nor did he show me any annoyance during this one minute 39 seconds call.

He said after he completed his query, Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan said if anyone was aggrieved they should contact him in the court. He said he always speaks through his judgements or in the courtroom and cannot discuss any issue privately.

“Upon this I thanked for his time and the call was disconnected.” He further submitted that before dealing official landline number of the residence of Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan, he had sent his query through SMS and WhatsApp messages to the registrar Supreme Court on July 3, 2017.

“I had also sent a letter comprising my query through fax to the office of registrar on the fax number (051-9213452) twice,” Noornai submitted, adding that the letter was faxed twice from two different fax numbers 051-2878015 and 051-2874213 during the office hours on July 3, 2017. He contended that the call was made to the contact staff at the residence of Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan only after failure to get any response from the office of the registrar.

This report was originally published in The News

Originally published in The News