ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court (SC) on Wednesday directed the owners of private media houses to pay salaries to journalists and media workers till April 30, otherwise adverse action would be taken against them.
A three-member bench headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Mian Saqib Nisar passed the directives on an application filed by Press Association of Supreme Court (PAS) President Tayyab Baloch, while hearing a case about the media commission, which was formed by the SC in 2013 to review major points of concern in mass media.
During the course of proceedings, representatives of all media houses appeared before the bench in compliance with its earlier orders. Faisal Chuadhry, counsel for the Capital TV, informed the bench that his client would pay all arrears to its employees till May.
Naeem Bukhari, counsel for Channel 7, said that his client had paid dues of Rs 220 million to its employees. However, a journalist, who was present in the court room, informed the bench that two-month salary of Channel 7’s employees was outstanding.
The chief justice directed the owner of the Channel 7 to clear all arrears within 15 days. Case regarding Roze TV was dismissed as its counsel said that all outstanding dues of its employees had been cleared.
Senior journalist Hamid Mir informed the court the Geo Group had not paid two-month salaries to its workers. Anchorperson Matiullah Jan told the apex court that Waqt TV had also not cleared dues of its employees.
A journalist from Bol TV alleged that his channel had not paid its employees since 2015 as their arrears had now crossed Rs 350 million.
Journalists from, Channel 5, Nawa-e-Waqt and Daily Times also said that they had not been paid for months.
The court observed that it was a matter of bread and butter for the journalists and directed the owners of media houses to clear all outstanding dues of their employees till April 30 or face consequences.
‘Restricting TV channels violates the constitution’:
CJP Nisar on Wednesday said that restricting TV channels from working freely was a violation of the constitution.
A three-member bench of the apex court, headed by the chief justice, resumed the hearing of the media commission case on Wednesday. During the hearing, the chief justice directed Geo News‘ counsel to file a petition over the channels’ closure.
Hamid Mir, the petitioner in the main case of media commission, requested the chief justice to get Geo TV channels restored across the country, noting that the channels’ transmission could not be restored despite directives of the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA).
At this, Justice Aijazul Ahsan said it was quite an old issue and was related to the cable operators.
The chief justice remarked that PEMRA had ordered the restoration of the channel, adding that restricting a TV channel from functioning freely was a violation of the constitution.
Mir urged the court to order implementation of the commission’s recommendations. He reminded that the commission had recommended that Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) should be free of government’s control and the government had agreed to make the authority independent through an amendment to the law.
The chief justice remarked that PEMRA should be a strong and independent organisation to manage its affairs without anyone’s influence. The additional attorney general (AAG) pleaded that the recommendations of the media commission could not be implemented according to the present laws as lawmakers would have to be part of the matter because it was a matter of division of powers.
The AAG further said that after the 18th constitutional amendment, the matter should be reviewed. The federal government wanted the independence of the media, the AAG added.
The case was adjourned till Thursday.