Private TV channel SAMAA has lost a defamation case filed by Nasir Butt, the man who secretly recorded judge Arshad Malik’s confession in which the latter said that he was forced to convict former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his daughter Maryam Nawaz.
Justice Saini of the London High Court has ruled in favour of Nasir Butt at a defamation preliminary hearing. SAMAA UK broadcast allegations that Nasir Butt was involved in threatening and bribing the late accountability court judge who had convicted former premier Nawaz Sharif in the assets beyond means case.
Nasir Butt had taken legal action against SAMAA UK for its broadcast of 11 July 2019 in which the channel aired allegations, in a news show, claiming that Nasir Janjua and Nasir Butt were “pressuring Judge Arshad Malik” and had “threatened” and were “trying to bribe” him.
During the broadcast, the channel showed Shahid Khaqan Abbasi defending Nasir Janjua but analyst and SAMAA employee Adnan Adil referred to Mr. Abbasi’s explanations as “false statements” and said, “now these conspiracies are being debunked”. Further, he said, “The people of Pakistan should know about this conspiracy. Has our court system and state apparatus sold itself out? Can anyone sabotage our systems through conspiracies? The public should know what conspiracy took place. They should know about how these characters were involved. They should receive exemplary punishment for this.”
While arguing before the court, SAMAA UK’s lawyer Barrister Rashid Ahmed and Nasir Butt’s lawyer Barrister David Lemer both relied on the historic defamation judgment in the case between Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman and ARY Network Ltd in 2016 at the London High Court. That verdict has become a benchmark for the determination of defamatory meaning in the context of Urdu television broadcasts in the UK.
Ahmed argued that if the words that are alleged to be defamatory are considered in the overall context of the program then it becomes clear that the intention was not to defame Butt.
At the preliminary trial, Justice Saini ruled against SAMAA UK as he found that the meaning of the words complained of was indeed defamatory. Justice Saini observed that the words complained of were a statement of fact and they defame Butt. In effect, the Judge found a Chase level 1 meaning.
Justice Saini directed that both parties should try to settle the case before the end of March 2022 or a date for the trial will be fixed where the broadcaster will have to prove with evidence that Nasir Butt was guilty of threatening and trying to bribe the judge.
It is understood that upcoming TV intends to continue to defend the claim.
It is pertinent to mention that in October 2021 Nasir Butt won a defamation claim against New Vision TV Limited because it broadcast several ARY programs, in 2019, in which it falsely alleged that Butt was a mass murderer, an organised criminal, and an important member of a drug cartel who had fled from Pakistan to evade justice. New Vision TV Limited issued an apology to Butt and agreed to pay him damages and cover his legal costs.
According to a statement by Butt’s lawyers, he has also sued Dunya News and 92 News in the UK High Court. Nasir Butt had also taken legal action Geo News in the UK but the channel settled with him and Shahzeb Khanzada interviewed him for 25 minutes on his show after the settlement.