Pirzada, Minto, Makhdoom to plead Jang Group's case today

SC takes up Jang Group, journalists petitions today

By our correspondent

ISLAMABAD: A three-member Supreme Court bench, on Monday (today), will take up three identical petitions filed by the Jang Group and trade unions of journalists -- the PFUJ, APNEC and PFUJ (Dastoor Group) -- against the government attempt to muzzle freedom of the press. The bench led by Justice Khalilur Rahman Khan will comprise Justice Sheikh Ijaz Nisar and Justice Chaudhry Mohammad Arif.

A panel of lawyers led by eminent lawyer Sharifuddin Pirzada will appear on behalf of the Jang Group. Other members of the panel are Barrister Makhdoom Ali Khan and president of the Supreme Court Bar Association Abid Hassan Minto.

Internationally acclaimed human rights activist Asma Jahangir will plead the case for Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists and All Pakistan Newspapers Employees Confederation, while Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (Dastoori Group) will be represented by senior advocate Akram Sheikh. The petitions were filed by PFUJ president Abdul Hameed Chapra, APNEC general secretary Pervaiz Shaukat and PFUJ (Dastoori Group) president Farrukh Said Khwaja.

Editor-in-Chief and Chief Executive of the Jang Group Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman has filed a constitutional petition in the Supreme Court against victimisation of the Group by the government and asked for staying raids on its offices, withdrawal of income notices, defreezing of its bank accounts and assets, and release of newsprint.

It has been brought to limelight that the government has started victimisation of the Jang Group in an arbitrary manner with ill-intent and mala fide which was tantamount to attack on freedom of the press and basic human rights.

The petitions filed under article 184(3) of the constitution by the journalists' bodies state that the Ministry of Information should be ordered to be abolished as it was a burden on the national exchequer, laws allowing access to official records be adopted, justifiable distribution of government advertisements be ensured and its wilful distribution and using it as tool to suppress freedom of the press by the government should be stopped.

The petitions state that government interference in the professional obligations of journalists was against the freedom of the press and the apex court should stop this illegal and unconstitutional interference. In the petition filed by the Jang Group, the Federation of Pakistan through the Interior Ministry, Secretary Ministry of Information, Ehtesab Bureau Chief Senator Saifur Rahman, the Director General Federal Investigation Agency and Central Board of Revenue have been made respondents. Hearing in these petitions will begin at courtroom No 4 on Monday at 9:00 am.

The News International Pakistan