The apex court on Saturday issued findings of an inquiry report on the leakage to a private television of footage of a full court reference held at the retirement of former chief justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry.
The report reveals that Abdul Hameed, a staff officer of the retired chief justice, disclosed to the apex court’s public relations officer and a private channel, Samaa TV’s reporter Khalid Azeem that the footage of the full court reference was to be provided to all reporters.
According to the report, he provided the video to Geo TV’s correspondent Abdul Qayyum Siddiqui with the understanding that he (Siddiqui) shall provide a copy to all TV channels.
“However, Abdul Qayyum Siddiqui withheld it (video) and unjustifiably aired the same as exclusive – his act caused unnecessary embarrassment to the court administration,” says the report.
Soon after taking oath as chief justice, Justice Tassaduq Hussain Jillani had directed the additional registrar to initiate an inquiry into reports in the electronic and print media that a certain media group (Geo TV) was given access inside courtroom-1 for an exclusive coverage of the proceedings.
The report’s findings indicate that no television channel was allowed to cover the event and only still photographers from the state media were allowed inside courtroom-1.
“Since TV channels were not allowed to make video coverage of the event, therefore, they made no attempt to get the footage and even refrained from exploring the possibility of getting it at the cost of violating the media advisories,” the report maintained.
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, the report adds.
It said it was not fair to accuse the complainant journalists of slackness or negligence in the performance of their professional duties and that dissemination of the event by Geo TV as an exclusive unnecessarily embarrassed the court administration.
“[The act of not sharing the video with other TV channels was] not in line with the stance of 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,” it added.
The report said a warning be also issued to court official Abdul Hameed so that he might be careful in future.
“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,” the reports adds.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 1st, 2014.