Rebuttal after rebuttal: Javed Jabbar rejects PEMRA claims

LAHORE:A key member of the Media Commission, Javed Jabbar, on Thursday rejected claims by Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) and insisted the authority made specific allegations of foreign funding against certain media outlets before the commission.

Jabbar issued a detailed statement that will be submitted today (Friday) to a three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry. The bench is hearing the case of “foreign funding” allegations against a media group.

“In one particular case, names and estimated amounts were cited by the PEMRA team as being foreign funds allegedly received by a particular media group and/or its related entities for the production and projection of certain programmes,” Jabbar said in his written statement.

Earlier, during hearing of the Media Commission case, the head of Pemra had taken the stance that during Pemra’s meeting with the Media Commission, the authority’s officials had not made allegations to the effect that certain private media outlets were receive foreign funding.

“I am obliged to respond because two incorrect claims have been made in the statement of Pemra, ie, (1) Pemra officials, during their meeting with the Media Commission, did not make allegations to the effect that a certain private media outlet in the country received foreign funding and (2) that it is not (in) Pemra’s mandate to investigate the source of funding of private electronic media. Both the above claims are not factual,” Jabbar stated.

He added that Pemra Chairman Rashid Ahmad had recorded his statement before the commission’s chairman Justice (retd.) Nasir Aslam Zahid, former secretary information and broadcasting as well as the commission’s secretary Salim Gul Shaikh, “While I will also present at the occasion,” he wrote.

“I am making this statement in response, in my individual capacity as Member of the Media Commission. The chairman of the Media Commission, Mr Justice (retd.) Nasir Aslam Zahid is indisposed at this time and I did not want to disturb his recuperation,” he stated.

During a meeting with the Media Commission held in Islamabad on February 14, 2013, five officials including Pemra Chairman M Rashid, Executive Member Dr A Jabbar,  Director General Ashfaq Jumani, Director General Licensing Sohail Ahmed and Secretary Legal Wing Nasir represented the authority.

Jabbar stated that the observations made by Pemra officials were noted by hand, both by him and the secretary. The chairman also made occasional notes by hand. There was no tape recording made of the observations and discussion.

He wrote that in the second part of the report, the Commission’s reproduced, virtually verbatim from notes made as per details above, the claims made by Pemra. “To separate these claims and remarks by Pemra from the observations and recommendations by the Commission, all the remarks by Pemra are placed in italics,” he added.

Jabbar stated that in the second part of the report, the claim about reported foreign funding for certain programmes having been received by a particular media group was reproduced exactly as stated by the Pemra team to the Media Commission.

“However, the fact is that the claim was made verbally by Pemra,” Jabbar wrote, adding that as per a well-established universally acknowledged principle, oral statements made before a court or a commission appointed by a court were to be considered true and valid expressions of fact or opinion.

He wrote that each page of the Media Commission’s report was reviewed in detail by the chairman and member and initialled by both, in the presence of the secretary before being conveyed to the registrar of the Supreme Court.

“It is deeply regrettable that, at a subsequent stage, Pemra has denied claims made earlier. It is entirely the discretion of the honourable bench of the Supreme Court to consider appropriate further action in this regard,” Jabbar said.

Here it is relevant to note that in their statements the Pemra DG Technical Dr Abdul Jabbar, DG Licensing Ashfaq Jumani, Secretary Sohail Asif and GM Legal Nasir Ayaz have repudiated that they ever gave any controversial  statements to the commission regarding foreign finding.

Talking to The Express Tribune, one of Pemra’s officials, who was also a part of the team, confirmed the statement of Jabbar. He said Pemra chairman Rashid Ahmad levelled the allegation of foreign funding of two programmes ie, “Aman Ki Asha” and “Zara Sochiye” before the commission.

Published in The Express Tribune

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