THE constitution of Pakistan ensures freedom of speech and expression, including freedom of the press as fundamental right of every citizen but subject to any reasonable restriction imposed by law relating, to Glory of Islam, security or defence of Pakistan etc. In a democratic system of government, freedom of press is considered backbone as such the constitution guarantees free and independent press as fundamental right of every citizen of Pakistan. Apparently it seems that the press in our country is not only free but it seems even crossing the restrictions imposed by law. The press groups or organizations even forget or ignore the legal dictum that “rights coincide with obligations”. The excessive applying of right of freedom by the press, sometimes, becomes a question mark. In this context the news titled “Act against militants or face international isolation, civilians tell military” recently published in the newspaper Dawn can be analysed critically as under:
The supra cited news covers proceedings of an extraordinary closed door meeting between top government and intelligence officials (these words have been used by the news organization itself in the news published on October 12, 2016). The meeting was headed by the Prime Minister of Pakistan and was convened to discuss the issues concerned with the national security of the country, that is the reason it can be said that the think-tank was called by the prime minister to frame, review and to look into the progress of already framed national security policy. Since, the points of discussion in the meeting were pertaining to national security and having significance not to be published as such no press correspondent was allowed to enter into and cover the proceedings.
The proceedings of the meeting though were secret, yet were leaked or fed and published, stunning everyone. The spokesman of the PM denied the story reported in the Dawn, termed contents of the story misleading and factually incorrect. Later on the Corps Commanders’ meeting expressed serious concerns over the story and termed the same “feeding of false and fabricated and breech of national security”. The government placed the story writer Cyril Almeida on the exit control list and pronounced inquiry against him.
On the other hand, despite all above rebuttals by the spokesman of PM and releasing of the statement by the ISPR, the news organization concerned stands for the story and reiterates it to be correct and denies any breech of national security policy. The writer of the story and the editor of the Dawn newspaper insist that, the news organization has not violated the restrictions mentioned in the article 19 of the constitution and also has not gone beyond the guidelines needed to be followed in journalism but the facts speak otherwise. Admittedly the meeting was extraordinary and Foreign Secretary Aizaz Choudhry gave an exclusive presentation in the prime minister’s office to a small group of civil and military officials. The meeting was chaired by worthy Prime Minister and discussed issues relating to national security, keeping in view war like situation to which country facing. Internal and external enemies are aim at to dent Pakistan’s legitimate stance in respect of Kashmir issue (assertion of Prime Minister before UN General Assembly meeting for execution of UN resolutions on Kashmir and actions against terrorist groups led by enemies, without any discrimination and successes thereupon.
It is astonishing, if, our journalists are of the opinion that, the proceedings of such an extraordinary and confidential meeting headed by the Prime Minister and participated by the senior Ministers and the chief of intelligence agency, do not come within the ambit of restrictions mentioned in article 19 of the constitution, if it is so, and proceedings of such meetings are open to be public through publications in newspapers, then what the restrictions in the article connote? Indeed, the professional credibility of the news organization is above board. The reporter and the editor of the newspaper are also known to be true professionals and honest to their job but it would be better if they had avoided publishing the story even if they honestly believed that the story was true and correct because now, it is proved that the story adversely effected the national interest. India launched propaganda against Pakistan and blamed that, the Pak army protects some terrorist groups to use them against other countries and the western media followed the Indian version in this regard and propagated against Pakistan harmfully, while the reality is that Pak army encountered all the terrorist groups in Pakistan without any discrimination and seized the tribal belt successfully from the hands of Taliban and it was not an easy task.
The role of Pak army in fighting against the terrorist organizations has been praised by the army chiefs of UK and US. The news gave an impression that the civil government and the Pak army are not on the same page in dealing with the terrorist groups. The most important aspect of the story is that how and who leaked or fed the news agency to publish the story in question. The organization has clearly stated that some of the participants of the meeting enabled the reporter to get the story. Is it not a dilemma to believe the version? All the participants are of high ranks and if it is true then it can be said that the enemy is hidden in our high ranks who must be divulged to take him to the cleaners.
— The writer is retired Justice Supreme Appelleant Court, Gilgit-Baltistan.