Nawaz Sharif leaves the accountablity court after hearing the corruption case in Islamabad. File
Tariq Butt, Staff Reporter
The federal cabinet has decided to block media coverage and interviews of politicians who are convicts or under-trail prisoners and directed the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) to fulfill its "responsibility” to discourage airing of such programmes by the electronic media.
The cabinet noted that former president Asif Ali Zardari and former prime ministers Nawaz Sharif and Shahid Khaqan Abbasi had made 245 foreign visits on which over Rs3.5 billion was spent. At the time, they held the top offices.
On the issue of the video leak related to an alleged conversation between Accountability Court Judge Arshad Malik and Nasir Butt, the cabinet concluded that as the video was made public by Maryam Nawaz, daughter of Sharif and a senior leader of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), therefore the onus to prove the allegations against the judge was on her and not the judge and the judiciary.
Federal Minister for Education Shafqat Mehmood briefing reporters about the cabinet meeting said Prime Minister Imran Khan and members of his cabinet unanimously decided that no convicted or under-trial prisoner should be given media coverage or should be allowed to give an interview. He quoted the prime minister as saying, "those who have plundered national wealth and brought the country on the verge of collapse should not be glorified. No democracy permits interviews and media coverage of those who have been arrested on charges of corruption.”
He, however, said the government had not directed Pemra to close down any private TV channel as it was an independent body competent to take its own decisions.
Pemra suspended transmission of three private TV channels a couple of days ago for airing Maryam’s address to a rally in Mandi Bahauddin.
The regulator also took off air an interview of Zardari, which was being conducted on July 1, on the premises of the Parliament House where the former president had come to attend a National Assembly session after the speaker had issued his production order.
The government is of the view that the production orders of Zardari were issued only to enable him to attend the assembly session and not for giving any interview to ‘undermine’ the judiciary and trial court.
The minister said the cabinet decided that Pemra would be asked why it was allowing something which did not take place in any democracy.
He said the production order of another detained opposition leader and PML-N president Shahbaz Sharif were issued to enable him to attend the National Assembly session but he summoned National Accountability Bureau NAB) chairman Javed Iqbal to a house committee meeting to grill him over the investigation being conducted against him (Shahbaz Sharif) in a corruption case.
"When Shahbaz Sharif’s production orders were issued, he summoned the NAB chairman who had arrested him. In which democracy do such things take place,” the minister said.
He said ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) believed in freedom of the press as both the party and the media had stood together during the former’s struggle for 22 years.
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