Pakistan:  PPF joins calls urging IHC to drop contempt case against  journalists

Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF) joins appeals to the Islamabad High Court (IHC) to drop contempt proceedings against Jang Group Editor in Chief Mir Shakilur Rahman, Editor Aamir Ghauri and Editor Investigations Ansar Abbasi of the groups daily newspaper “The News”. The media has a responsibility to inform the public of important developments and the contempt proceedings undermine their ability to do so.

The proceedings are a reaction to an investigative report by Abbasi published on November 15 of a notarized affidavit by former Chief Justice of Gilgit Baltistan Rana Shamim that stated that he had witnessed former Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar direct a high court judge not to let former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif or PML-N leader Maryam Nawaz out on bail before the 2018 general elections “at any cost”.

Following the publication of the report, IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah had on November 16 issued show-cause notices to Abbasi, Rahman and Ghauri and others, under the Contempt of Court Ordinance.

According to The News, an IHC written order from the hearing on December 28 had stated that “the three journalists prima facie committed criminal contempt by reporting on the matter”.

The former GB chief judge and others have been summoned for indictment on January 7.

The Association of Electronic Media Editors and News Directors (AEMEND) said that the contempt charges are “worrying since the journalists merely reported an affidavit which exists and has been verified”.

The All Pakistan Newspapers Society (APNS) said the “order of the court would impact on the existing state of beleaguered freedom of press and would discourage journalists from reporting on matters of public interest”.

The APNS said reporting the story “which was not denied” wouldn’t damage the respect of the court but “framing charges against the journalists would tantamount to suppressing the freedom of expression and denial of people’s right to know”.

“We entreat the honourable court to annul this decision,” said the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) in a statement expressing disappointment at the IHC’s decision.

Ends/PPF