Original Articles

Mir Shakil ur Rahman: A Pakistani media tycoon by occupation and a threat to democracy by profession – by Junaid Qaiser

Mir Shakil ur Rehman, anti-democrat by profession

 
“The business of a journalist now is to destroy the truth, to lie outright, to pervert, to vilify, fall at the feet of Mammon and sell himself for his daily bread. We are tools, vessels of rich men behind the scenes, we are jumping jacks. They pull the strings; we dance. Our talents, our possibilities and our lives are the properties of these men. We are intellectual prostitutes”-John Swainton, (Chief of Staff of the New York Times)

Pakistan’s electronic media, and most of the print media as well, are owned primarily by most wealthy individuals. Direct ties to the largest of big businesses are almost unbelievably extensive , and, we believe, these ties cannot help but seriously bias and compromise news coverage. Moreover, the media empires are, first and foremost, profit-making corporations that conduct themselves like other corporations when it comes to corrupting Pakistani politics. That is, the parent corporations of many make so-called “campaign contributions” and also act against the public interest in other ways. As big winners in the corruption game, they show no signs of serious interest in political and social reforms.

Mass media, which is supposed to provide programming and information in the public interest but unfortunately Pakistani establishment and its corporate media giants exercise control over what we read, see and hear. Due to the vast extent of the manipulation of the media under the sway of business interests, it has failed to accurately portray the real nature of political, societal and economic problems to the public, playing instead the subservient role of a propaganda machine for elite interests, is therefore quite obvious.

As plutocratic media groups and their TV channels and newspapers have become increasingly dependent on establishment’s revenues for support, they have become anti-democratic forces in society. Allegations of political bias in the media are common. Being controlled by the elite, our media furthers the economic interests of the wealthy few at the cost of the interests, and values, of the majority; and the self-indulgent, empire-building interests of the wealthy few. The Jang Group–empire, as most observers would agree, has been instrumental in both toppling governments in Pakistan for decades now and democratic forces recognize it as obscurantist forces’ most potent weapon against democracy in Pakistan.

Public is getting quite fed up with the planted, biased, illiterate, and highly unprofessional so-called reporting by its so called intellectuals. Its foremost duty is opposing all the time current democratic government of PPP and  making media trial of democratically elected President of Pakistan. It has to be noted that there is something sinister with Jang Group. When ZAB was alive and was leading the PPP, the chant was “Bhutto is bad, the party is fine!”.

After ZAB, for nearly 18 years, MBB was the bad woman of Pakistan Politics. PPP was good and she had sidelined the uncles. After MBB’s assassination, MBB was very good, Asif Zardari is the bad guy. One can see a planned motive. Target the party head! “This Group has played a special role in Pakistan’s history in promoting dictatorships, jingoism, sectarianism, ethnic conflicts, and in general keeping its readership in a world that can be described as xenophobic.

Its role in projecting Jamaat-e-Islami in the 1970s, turning the newspaper into a pamphlet and printing highly inflammatory slogans that provoked the language riots in Sindh (1972), barely six months after the dismemberment of Pakistan, remains one of the darkest chapters in Pakistani journalism.  Jamaat Islami Chief, Tufail Mohammed was an uncle of Zia ul Haq and an agent of the CIA as Mr. Bhutto documented in detail in his book, “If I am Assassinated”.

Let Us Build Pakistan and its many authors have been claiming that Jang Group is biased toward democratic politics and elected civilian governments. It is a basic principle of journalism that news should be reported in neutral terms but on the other hand, Jang Group continues to include its own point of view, interest and bias. In essence, the Jang Group  effectively serves establishment’s interests by the appropriate selection of topics, distribution of concerns, framing of issues, disparity in emphasis, and the filtering of information.

Student of Journalism and communication can easily detect Jang Group’s  bias against civilian democratic government and parliament  by using simple journalistic techniques. If you review and analyze the content of its talk shows like now defunct Meray Mutabiq, Capital Talk, Aaj Kamran Khan Kay Saath, Jirga, news programs and messages, it is always one-sided and does not include alternative points of view and even it does not fairly and honestly present alternative arguments plus its anchors deliberately ignore obviously conflicting arguments and even used negative words and images to describe other points of view. Their twisting of statements was recently seen against the PPP spokeswoman who was charged with blasphemy while just two days ago, Asif Zardari was declared an American citizen.

In Pakistan, where there is a dearth of democratic principles mainly due to long spells of dictatorship, it seems our media especially Jang Group and its jumping jack anchors are once again are trying to create and develop chaos, instability and pseudo environment to stimulate change against peoples representative democratic regime. Without doubt due to its market share of approximately 70%, the Jang Group exercises tremendous political influence, and has virtually always acted against the best interests of Pakistani citizens in media-related issues. The mass media is clearly one of the most powerful institutions in society; it is, for most of the public, the ultimate source of all their information. The structure of the mass media will therefore have fundamental implications for the political and cultural orientation of the public.

Mir Shakil ur Rehman , also known as MSR is a Pakistani media tycoon, is said to be one of the wealthiest and most influential person in the country as well. Once he reportedly claimed, “I’m the evergreen ruler of Pakistan—I can bring down a government and form a new one!”. There have been a number of accusations and controversies about Mir Shakil and his Jang Group: Professional journalists in the country also accuse Mir Shakil for destroying the much respected institution of the ‘editorship’ in the newspaper industry.

After the death of his father, he has been hiring incompetent and flattering people as the so called ‘chairman editorial committee’ not on professional and intellectual but on on political basis. Some business groups accuse him of blackmailing—they say if Jang Group is not given advertisement, it gives news reports against those uncooperative parties. Tax evasion and many other corruption charges are labeled against Mir and his business empire.

He has many cases in the courts of the country in family feuds on the ownership of many of the business units. He is believed to be the owner of many unknown in land and offshore companies and has accused of undeclared assets around the globe.

Mir Shakil is known as a ‘dictator’ in his approach and thought by his family members and employees. Our influential media groups are continuously denying rule of law i.e The Wage Board Award is a salary package given to newspapers. The APNS has been consistently denying the Wage Board award to its journalists, and has come under fire for it but consistently refuses to give it, which, according to the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists, is against the law, but no one dares to do anything against the county’s elite. Recently, Jang Group had announced in the wake of the startling disclosures in Hamid Mir’s allegedly recorded conversation that they will conduct and inquiry.

In the tape, Mir and the militant discuss the activities of former Inter-Services Intelligence officer Khalid Khwaja, who was recently abducted and killed by the Asian Tigers, a group of Punjabi Taliban. We think it’s been more than three weeks and there is no news and even no news analysis of great Ansar Abbasi, so it seems that the so called free Geo and its  torch bearer  anchors, custodian of law and morality are not following golden principle of the rule of law?

Corporate media houses are not providing more variety to the consumers, independent observers are  criticizing the new disastrous trend of political debates being presented by electronic media by
ignoring the important issues of public interest. Channels are not focusing on human and pro people issues and instead practicing talk show democracy.

Though it has strong bearing on future of democracy and people of Pakistan there is a very little debate on the role and responsibilities of private corporate media. Media organizations should initiate this much needed debate and chart out a way forward. Free and responsible media is actually the basis of democracy in the liberal paradigm.

About the author

Ahmed Iqbalabadi

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