ISLAMABAD - Taking serious notice over the finding of Media Commission against a media group for receiving heavy foreign sponsorship for its Program ‘Zara Sochieay’, the Supreme Court has asked Pemra chairman and other officials to explain their position.

The Pemra has denied making the statement, but the court refused to accept the denial and directed the media regulatory authority to furnish evidence by Friday, providing the source of their information and justification for making of such insertions in the commission report.

The Media Commission, while referring the statement of Pemra Chairman Chaudhry Rashid Ahmed, Executive Director Dr Abdul Jabbar, DG Licensing Ashfaq Jumani, GM Legal Nasir Ahmed and Secretary Suhail Ahmed, has revealed that heavy funds were pouring into media outlets from abroad in the form of sponsorship and that the program ‘Zara Sochieay’ had received sponsorship to the extent of 20 million pounds.

A three-member bench of the apex court headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry heard the Civil Miscellaneous Application (CMA) filed by Journalists Hamid Mir and Absar Alam against the serious allegations levelled against the media group. The court made it clear that it would not allow blotting the image of anyone unreasonably. The same media group had also got relief from the court when it ordered Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) on June 5, 2011 to immediately issue a broadcasting licence to Geo Super.

The petitioners submitted contended that propriety demands that evidence, if any, be presented before the Commission and the apex court and it may be made public as that was the primary purpose of the Commission. Otherwise, the commission would become controversial and it would fail to serve its real purpose, which was to make recommendations, they said.

Hamid Mir and Absar Alam said that another allegation is that the "Aman Ki Asha" program was being funded by a Norwegian NGO "Friends without Borders" and it has been further alleged that the footprints of this funding lead to Indian sponsors including the Indian State Television namely Doordarshan. They insisted that the seriousness of the allegations demands that the said proof, if any, be made public as the report of the commission itself is a public document.

The media group’s counsel, Dr Tariq Hassan submitted that a conspiracy had been hatched against his client group saying that both the programs Aman Ki Asha and Zara Socieay belong to the media group. During the hearing, Pemra counsel Zulfiqar Maluka said that Pemra officials did not reveal any facts regarding heavy foreign sponsorship to the said media house. The CJP, however, told him that they could have come forward saying that it was not a correct statement. "We would not allow tarnishing the image of anyone," he added. Justice Jawwad remarked simple denial is not sufficient, and asked the counsel that one should come with proof and justification. Justice Azmat Saeed observed allegations were once also made against a person like Hussain Shaheed Suharwardy.

Petitioner Absar Alam told the bench that violence was being incited against the media group, adding that even Hamid Mir is being painted as a CIA agent. He said that a particular group of people were levelling allegations their media group. “Mr Absar Alam the truth will come to surface and the things will ultimately expose themselves", Justice Jawad S Khawaja remarked.

The court in its order ruled that the said allegations are not only provocative but also involved the goodwill and credibility of the media house concerned. It noted that although the Pemra had denied about the said insertion but at this stage, it was very difficult to accept it. The bench issued notices to Pemra officials, directing them to explain their position and bring evidence on Friday.