Is Media Intentionally Fueling Executive-Judiciary Tension?

Oct 15th, 2010 | By | Category: Aaj TV, ARY TV, Geo TV, Jang, The News

Is media generating court panic?Imagine how much could be done towards actually rooting out corruption, overhauling the tax system, and all the other issues supposedly important to the media intelligentsia if they would quite wasting time on rumours and conspiracy theories. Just last night there was another emergency that turned out to be a non-emergency only because of some media personalities reporting rumours and gossips and everyone’s complete unwillingness to think sensibly. I am talking, of course, about the rumour that the government was planning to withdraw the notification to restore the Supreme Court justices.

Sohail Khan reports today for The News that:

The issue became serious when a late night press release issued by the Supreme Court informed the nation that the SC had taken notice of the reports on TV channels and had registered a case which will be heard by a full 17-member bench of the SC on Friday. A notice had been issued to the Attorney General to appear before the bench.

There were strong speculations in the media in the evening that the government was considering the move to remove the SC judges by cancelling the notification which had been issued after the Long March of March 16 to restore the judges.

As a result of this “strong speculation”, Supreme Court judges and their staff rushed to the court to issue a press release and make emergency preparations for a hearing, summoning the Attorney General to appear and give some explanations. Explanations of what? The government never did anything. Nobody did anything except some media personalities who once again spread some rumours or “specualtions” with no basis in any evidence.

No matter that the Prime Minister himself issues a statement at 8:30 pm assuring that there was no such conspiracy and that such speculation was all non sense.

“These kind of reports are incorrect and baseless and there is no such thing, and through these kind of statements efforts were made to create misunderstanding between the institutions,” said the PM House spokesman while quoting Prime Minister Gilani.

The spokesman said the prime minister had stated that the government respected the judiciary as the PPP had struggled and given the sacrifices for the independence of the judiciary. “Those who spread such kind of reports do not want strengthening of institutions,” the spokesman said, quoting the prime minister. Gilani said all the conspiracies will be foiled regarding the confrontation between the government and judiciary.

Even Supreme Court Bar Association President Ali Ahmad Kurd has stated that the Supreme Court judges acted hastily and would have been better to wait until the light of day to determine the facts.

But the issue is not the actions of the judges, which may be understandable as they heard about this on the news. It raises the more serious question of the role of media in the affair.

According to a report on the Geo website today:

The Supreme Court in its short order in the case regarding withdrawal of judges’ restoration notification reports stated that the government has failed to satisfy the Court and any attempt to remove the judges would be tantamount to treason, Geo News reported Friday.

The apex court ruled that judges restoration notification cannot be withdrawn. The court said that the executive order of 16th March 2009, restoring the sacked judges has lost its effectiveness after the 31st July 2009, verdict and heads of all constitutional organs must abide by the judgement.

The order also restrained all the heads of constitutional organs of the country including the president from restoring it.

What the Geo article fails to report, however, is that the government immediately and explicitly stated that it had no plans to withdraw judges restoration and has made no move to do so.

With the group of nations known as ‘Friends of Democratic Pakistan’ meeting with Foreign Minister Qureshi in Brussels today and the PM and President meeting to discuss preparations for Pakistan-USA strategic dialogues, the timing of this media report must be considered.

As the government has issued a strong denial of this rumour and, in fact, no such withdrawal has taken place, perhaps the Court should inquire as to who is behind the “strong speculation” that was reported on TV and whether the media that reported the rumours took the time to check with government representatives before they reported such.

With the ongoing tensions between the judiciary and the executive, it is common to evaluate the intentions of the justices and the government officials. Perhaps it is finally time for an official evaluation of the intentions of media also.

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