ISLAMABAD: Geo News and the Jang Group on Tuesday made it clear during the hearing held at the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) that the broadcast mentioned in the complaint was the opinion of an individual, having nothing to do with the Jang Group.
Senior lawyer Akram Sheikh appeared on behalf of Geo News during the hearing at the authority’s headquarters while Dr Babar Awan represented the Ministry of Defence and ISI. Arguments have been completed from both sides and after the next session on May 9, the authority will take a decision.
Akram Sheikh contended that Geo News has not levelled any allegation against any state institution, including the army, and noted that in case of any illegal action against Geo News, the proper judicial forum would be approached.
He maintained that without its chairman, Pemra was incomplete and hence a hearing could not be held. In this connection, he referred to a judgement, wherein the Supreme Court (SC) judge Justice Jawad S Khawaja had made it clear that the authority would not be complete without its chairman.
He said no evidence is being offered to substantiate the allegations being levelled against Geo. As regards the track record and services of the Jang Group, the senior lawyer reminded the forum of the Jang Group’s valuable services spread over 75 years and said it has played a crucial part in the creation and strengthening of Pakistan.
He charged that the Ministry of Defence, ISI and Pemra, all state institutions, are harming the credibility of the group by levelling baseless allegations without providing any evidence that it was anti-Pakistan. He called for the withdrawal of these allegations against the group.
Akram Sheikh pointed out that their appearance in the hearing was a goodwill gestureand that not a single word was used against the military in its transmission, as the Jang Group considered military as the lifeline of Pakistan and accord utmost respect to it.
The senior lawyer contended the show-cause notice to Geo News was served in indecent haste, as a three-judge Judicial Commission has already been formed to probe the attack on Hamid Mir. He said raising this issue at Pemra separately amounts to meddling in the working of the commission. He added that the findings of the commission should be awaited.
At one point, Pemra Member Israr Abbasi said they want to decide the matter today (Tuesday). He said, “I know Mr Akram Sheikh the tactics you are trying to use.” At this, Sheikh replied, “You are using non-parliamentary language. You have repeated four times that you want to decide the matter today, which shows you are not impartial.”
In protest against Abbasi’s attitude, Sheikh walked out and returned after some time. He said that it should be put on the record that Abbasi’s attitude is inappropriate.He pointed out that the complaint by the Ministry of Defence was received on April 22 at night, whereas its official working hours end at 4pm. He added the next day, in less than 24 hours, a notice was served on Geo News that reflected Pemra’s mala fide intention.
The senior lawyer made it clear that the stance of Geo/Jang Group on accepting the notice and Pemra’s authority should not be construed as ultimate and final.
On his part, Dr Babar Awan criticised Geo News and alleged it had targeted both the army and ISI during its transmission and contended it was clear violation of the Pemra rules; therefore, immediate action should be taken against it and its transmission be closed down.
After the hearing, talking to a group of media persons, Dr Awan said that arguments from both sides had been completed and the matter would be referred to the complainant authority for consideration.He claimed to have understood the case well for he himself had been a victim of the media trial.
He was asked by Geo that since he himself had been biased towards the media, how could be fight the case on behalf of ISI on merit. He replied, “You have asked a good question. But it is not necessary to answer every question.”
Journalists, who gathered at Pemra Headquarters, to cover the proceedings, were not allowed to enter the premises and had to wait outside the main gate to get details of what happened inside during the course of hearing.