IHC directs private TV channel’s bureau chief to justify anti-judiciary campaign

Zubair Qureshi

The Islamabad High Court (IHC) has directed the Bureau Chief of a private TV channel to appear before the court on the next date of hearing and justify its systematic smear campaign against the Supreme Court as well as the Islamabad High Court in the context of the events of April 9, 2022.

Chief Justice Athar Minallah gave these directions while hearing a petition filed by Arschad Sharif of the ARY News on Friday. Sharif had approached the court against the alleged harassment and threatening messages by the government agencies as he claimed he was being victimized for doing programmes and running investigation reports against the present rulers in the past.

Director Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) on the occasion informed the court that there was no proceeding being initiated against the petitioner or any other journalist associated with the TV channel managed and operated by ARY Media Communication.

The chief justice however observed that in the past too, the court has been receiving complaints of similar messages and threats received by journalists. The perception of threat raised a big question mark over the image of the FIA, observed the judge and asked why such a perception about the FIA officers against persons engaged in the profession of journalism was not dispelled.

Having addressed the alleged harassment, Chief Justice Athar Minallah raised the recent vilification campaign launched against the Supreme Court and the Islamabad High Court in the wake of the incidents of April 9, when the two courts were opened late at night. Justice Athar Minallah while referring to the presence of the President of the IHJ Journalists Association Saqib Bashir said the court always valued and safeguarded freedom of expression. He however, asked the counsels for the petitioner and the ARY News why the TV channel made an attempt to bring disrepute to both the courts and thus ‘eroded the confidence of the people in the judicial system.’

The judge observed that even prior to April 9, the court had entertained several petitions after the official timings. The same was the case with the petition on the eve of April 9 and the court took up the matter despite the fact the prescribed formalities were not complied with.

The judge also drew the attention of the counsel to the fact that the petitions under question were disposed of with exemplary costs.

The court also noted with surprise and regret, that the ARY Bureau Chief informed the court that it was not the policy of the TV channel to give airtime to the cases of enforced disappearances or students of Balochistan.

The vilification campaign against the court seems to be based on an imaginary narrative and in disregard to the notified policy of the court with regard to entertaining petitions after court timings provided they involved extreme urgency, the court observed.

Later the court directing the Bureau Chief of the ARY News to appear on the next date of hearing i.e. May 12 and justify the vilification campaign adjourned the hearing. In the meanwhile, the court also directed the FIA not to take any adverse action against the petitioner or any other journalist relating to their professional duties and functions.