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SC holds Geo reporter guilty in full court reference scandal, former CJP Iftikhar Chaudhry’s staff officer sacrifices to save him from further humiliation

By Sarmad Ali
Islamabad, June 1 (Pak Destiny) The Supreme Court’s findings of an inquiry on the leakage of a full court reference video held Geo reporter Abdul Qayyum Siddiqui and former chief justice Iftikhar Chaudhry’s man (his staff officer) guilty thus making it clear Iftikhar-Geo nexus implicitly.

      Official sources said since Siddiqui and his channel (Geo) were close to Iftikhar Chaudhry he directed his staff officer Ch Abdul Hameed to give video footage of full court reference on the day of his retirement exclusively to Siddiqui. Later, when other news channels aired the malafide of Iftikhar, he asked his staff officer to ‘sacrifice’ for him and take the blame to save him from embarrassment and further humiliation. “Without Iftikhar’s order the poor Hameed could not have dared to hand over the video of full-court reference to Geo reporter,” the sources said.
The footage of full court reference in honour of Iftikhar Chaudhry on December 11, 2013, was aired at Geo News only, all the other channels strongly protested and hinted that Justice Iftikhar had favoured Geo TV.
     The Supreme Court yesterday released findings of an inquiry report on the leakage of a full court reference video to Geo TV on the occasion of former Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry’s retirement.

The findings revealed that TV channels were not allowed to make video coverage of the full court reference, and none of their camera crew was invited inside Courtroom No 1.

As per statements of Khalid Azeem of Samaa TV and Shahid Hussain Kamboyo, Public Relations Officer of the Supreme Court, Ch Abdul Hameed, 2-3 days before the full court reference, had told both of them that video coverage of the reference would be privately arranged and the footage would be given to all TV channels.

The findings stated that the private arrangement of footage of the reference rested with Ch Abdul Hameed. Ch Abdul Hameed handed over the video to Abdul Qayyum Siddiqui of Geo News.

“Their act caused unnecessary embarrassment to the court administration,” says the report, adding that Ch Abdul Hameed failed to ensure that the footage was simultaneously given to all the channels.
CJ addresses farewell full court reference

The findings observed that it needs to be appreciated that the complainant journalists abided by the media advisories conveyed to them by the PRO to the effect that TV channels were not allowed video coverage of the event and only still photographs inside the courtroom were allowed to be made by the state media photographers.

The report stated that all of them were performing their duties diligently and honestly by remaining present at the venue of the reference and transmitted reports to their channels. Since TV channels were not allowed to make video coverage of the event, therefore, as law-abiding citizens, and remaining true to the ethics of their profession, they just made no attempt to get the footage by hook or crook and even refrained from exploring the possibility of getting it at the cost of violating the media advisories conveyed to them by the SC PRO of the court.

“It was not a case where any court official (Public Relations Officer or anyone else) had called for the journalists to give them footage of the Reference and the complainant journalists had failed to approach him and receive the footage,” says the report, adding that rather, one among the lot got the footage with the understanding that it would be shared with other channels as per past practice, but he unjustifiably withheld it and proceeded to lay the claim of exclusivity.

The findings further revealed that it was not fair to have accused the complainant journalists of slackness or negligence in the performance of their professional duties.

The report further stated that the airing of the full court reference by Geo TV as exclusive unnecessarily embarrassed the court administration and the act was not in line with the stance of “Abdul Qayyum Siddiqui that he and his media group believe in the respect and dignity of the institution because if that were so, he ought not to have aired the footage as exclusive in presence of the media advisories in place.

As regards Ch Abdul Hameed, it has been found that since he had given out to Khalid Azeem of Samaa TV as well as PRO Shahid Hussain Kamboyo much before the reference that the footage would be provided to all the channels, it could not be said that he intended to discriminate any of the channels in providing the footage,” the findings said. He remained unable to achieve the target he had set for himself. In his explanation, he has stated that he had been working with the former chief justice as staff officer/ secretary for a long period and had been performing duties assigned to him as per direction of the then CJ.

As regards the footage issue, he has said that on the day of full court reference, he had multiple pressing engagements and the issue of footage had arisen due to competition between different media channels; no channels was allowed to make the footage; and only a private photographer (Bhatti Studio) was arranged by him for photography of Justice Iftikhar and his family; that he did not know how Geo TV managed to get/ make the said footage, but when he was apprised of the issue, he telephonically asked the Geo correspondent that he had no exclusive right in respect of footage and that he should also share the same with other channels as well.

The report further stated that chain of events that has come on record in the course of the inquiry does suggest that the footage went into the hands of Geo correspondent courtesy Ch Abdul Hameed and the explanation furnished by him on this course is not much convincing.

The report further revealed that as regards the airing of footage by Geo as exclusive, since it has been found that there was no occasion for such a claim, the footage ought not to have been aired as exclusive. However, being a first reported act of omission or commission on the part of the Geo’s special correspondent, if approved, no further action including a reference to the concerned forum under the law or any other appropriate action, may be taken qua him.

“As regards the grievance of the complainant journalists, it has been established and their position vindicated. In the circumstances, they may be informed that the footage or any other press material to be released by the Court offices would be provided to all the media channels simultaneously as per past practice”, the findings said. – Pak Destiny

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