Islamabad: Pakistan’s Supreme Court on Tuesday banned famous anchor Shahid Masood from hosting TV programmes on current affairs for three months.
A three-member bench headed by Chief Justice Saqib Nisar announced the penalty during the hearing of a suo motu case on the TV journalist’s claims in the Zainab murder case.
Masood was first summoned by the Supreme Court (SC) in January to provide details on revelations he made in his TV show regarding the suspect in the rape and murder case of seven-year-old Zainab Ansari and other children in Kasur.
Masood had claimed that Imran Ali, killer of Kasur’s Zainab, was a member of international child pornography gang with alleged connections to a senior Punjab politician.
He also claimed that the suspect had 37 foreign accounts.
However, his claims about the bank accounts were rebuffed by the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) in its report to the investigation team formed by the Punjab government to probe the case. Later, the SC-appointed investigation team also declared that the anchor’s claims are false.
During the proceedings on Tuesday, the TV anchor submitted an unconditional apology “from the depths of his heart” to the court but the bench ruled to reprimand the media person over his controversial remarks.
Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar dismissed the verbal apology, saying: “I will not forgive you without punishment.”
The CJP then told Masood to “suggest a punishment for himself or the court will ban him for six months”.
Masood first suggested a ban for one month and then extended it to two months.
The court announced a ban for three months and ordered the TV journalist to submit a written apology.
In the apology, he stated that: “I hereby express remorse and repentance over whatever I stated in the said programme and tender unconditional, unqualified and sincere apology from this court.”
Separately, the TV anchor person also tendered unconditional apology over unethical remarks made in his programme against Additional Advocate-General Punjab Ayesha Hamid.
In an earlier hearing this month on March 7, the CJP had refused to accept a verbal apology from News One senior anchor person for his startling allegations against the convicted rapist and murderer.
Masood, on March 12, had submitted a written apology in court, saying that he was “sorry if the transmission hurt anyone’s sentiments”.
The apology was again rejected by the CJP who said that the Masood “had not apologised” in his answer.
The ban on Shahid Masood led to a debate on social media in Pakistan where some supported the punishment while others requested the Court to investigate the false stories by other media houses.
“So Dr Shahid Masood [has been] punished for one false story. When will be other media groups be penalised for running numerous fake stories?” Arslan Khalid asked on Twitter.
However, political analyst Lt-Gen (retd) Ghulam Mustafa urged that “While Dr. Shahid Masood has been ordered off air for three months, hopefully investigations into possibility of child pornography gangs operating in Kasur or elsewhere would not die down. It is a matter of future of our children.”