AGP tells the top court that the notices will be issued again after the elections
- AGP says notices will be issued again after polls.
- SC seeks report on attack on journalist Absar Alam.
- PA president says notice hasn’t been withdrawn.
ISLAMABAD: Attorney General for Pakistan (AGP) Mansoor Usman Awan on Tuesday assured the Supreme Court that no action would be taken against journalists, who were issued notices over their alleged involvement in smear smearing, till the general elections slated for February 8.
The development came during the hearing of a suo motu case which was taken up along with an old case heard in 2021 pertaining to the harassment of journalists.
A three-member bench headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Qazi Faez Isa and comprising Justice Muhammed Ali Mazhar and Justice Mussarat Hilali conducted the hearing of the case.
On January 17, the caretaker government formed a five-member Joint Investigation Team (JIT) to ascertain the facts behind a malicious social media campaign against the Supreme Court judges after the apex court gave a verdict on election symbol of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI).
The JIT constituted under the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act 2016 consists of officials from police, FIA and intelligence agencies.
The FIA’s list titled “JIT-SM campaign against CJP and State Institutions” which has names of 47 media persons and YouTubers went viral on social media.
A day earlier, the top judge said the Supreme Court cannot stop any journalist or even the general public from expressing criticism, directing the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) not to take legal action against them for critiquing the apex court.
The AGP, during the hearing today, told the top court that the notices will be issued again after the elections.
AGP Awan and the Press Association of Supreme Court’s officials appeared before the court.
At the outset of the hearing, CJP Isa asked if any petition was filed today. To this, the press association’s president said that the plea could not be filed as the FIA did not provide a list.
CJP Isa said that the top court did not issue an order because of this, adding that he was expecting a petition to be filed. “The court cannot issue any order until the matter is heard in the judges’ committee,” he added.
Later, he asked where the joint investigation team’s notification was. “If the court takes a suo motu notice like this then the journalists would object,” he added.
Justice Mazhar apprised that those who received the notices could have submitted their answers.
“Has anyone appeared before the FIA?” questioned Justice Mazhar.
At this, AGP Awan said that the JIT was stopped till today.
Journalist Matiullah Jan told the court that attempts were being made to control the media. He then pleaded that the institutions should summon them in connection with the notices after Feb 8 polls.
“The federal government should be asked to create a social media code of conduct in collaboration with stakeholders,” said a lawyer.
CJP Isa asked whether the court could issue an order like this.
“There is no law to regulate digital media. The law is only for criminal proceedings,” replied Justice Mazhar.
The chief justice said that the court can only request the stakeholders to sit together.
At this point, the PA president said that despite the court’s observation, the notices were not withdrawn.
“We do not care about criticism because we follow the Constitution and laws,” remarked the CJP.
The AGP said that there was a process to withdraw the notices.
Supreme Court Bar President Shehzad Shaukat then said that they encourage criticism but cannot allow fabricated allegations.
“We had an impression that the notices were withdrawn after yesterday’s hearing. Even today, no one is believing that the reports were wrong and notices were not withdrawn,” he added.
At this point, the court gave the journalists time till the elections to appear before the FIA inquiry.
“FIA notices against journalists will be taken up after the elections,” said the AGP.
The SC also sought an investigation report on the attack on journalist Absar Alam.