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Aapas Ki Baat: Geo’s dilemma

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We are living in the Age of media abundance, and lamentably, there is a dearth of news stories and reporting that offer any hope and portray the enlightenment as a fundamental reality. Though we are moving from information scarcity to information abundance yet Pakistani citizens continue to struggle for reliable information and pro citizen journalism. what a paradox? Liberal view and voice goes completely missing in Pakistan, and media offer no space for unpopular point of view. Baluchistan and Parachinar like sensitive issues deserve more mention and the media focusing only on non-issues.

Democracy requires compromise, reconciliation, support, understanding, hope, and above all, accurate reporting from the media. In times of democratic crises, the media should strive to disseminate pro-democratic thoughts, not offer conspiracy theories based on little or fake evidence as well as bleak assessments with no grounding in fact.

Today so-called independent media is supporting right-wing political and social thoughts, and giving disproportionate coverage to various fundamentalist and rightest political groups. Pakistani media has made it practically difficult for liberal and progressive section of the society to present their side of pinions on the subject of sensitive and a highly political nature. And Geo is leading the tally with most number of right wing programs and anchors, it’s top-rated talk shows are highly biased and imbalanced one, as they promote right wing or conservative ideology. This sort of unfair treatment of news made Geo unacceptable for liberal and progressive section of society plus Pakistan Peoples Party’s sympathizers.

In a bid to remove the tag of ‘right-winger’ and restore the credibility, confidence and trust of its TV with new liberal narrative, Jang group has hired Najam Sethi, a journalist, having liberal credentials, just to change outer skin and try to present itself as a liberal progressive news organization. But it becomes another failed attempt to revive the democratic image due to ‘Technical Fault’ internal censorship by the management.

It was the second time on the night Tue, 19 April 2011, Mr. Najam Sethi’s show, Aapas Ki Baat, on Geo-News went off the air, firstly, it was on Feb 22nd, 2011 while he was talking about the media-judiciary nexus. Aaps ki baat’s ‘Technical Fault’ sounds like internal check loop to control the overacting over criticism of Sethi’s on judiciary, army and favorite political group (PTI).

Let’s start with what Sethi gets right. He says, “ Imran khan is playing on ISI’s pitch ” – this is accurate to a certain extent. He mentions that security and intelligence establishment is backing Imran Khan, while discussing possible formation of IJI-type coalition in Punjab consisting of PML-Humkhayal, MQM, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI). Things go awry when he claims that Imran Khan’s Political career has great Potentials.

There are alot of problems facing leading media group, ranging from credibility to revenue, and a simmering conflict between the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) and the Jang Group has affected badly the economic & commercial interests of the leading media group. Acting Chairman Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) Dr Abdul Jabbar accusing the Jang Group of a personal vendetta against the federal government and by saying that “Geo TV is levelling baseless allegations against the government and the PEMRA regarding blocking of its Geo Super channel.” He strongly refuted the allegations of a private satellite channel regarding blocking of its sports channel.

The Jang group has launched the image tarnishing and defamatory campaign against the PEMRA and the PPP government through concocted stories and making lame excuses to avoid payment of general sales tax (GST) on the revenue generated from telecasting the Cricket World Cup matches. While blaming the PEMRA for allegedly closing Geo Super and AAG TV channels until their own counsel in LHC hearing on 18 April proved their stance wrong. Whereas it has been accusing PEMRA of channels closure, it was revealed in the court that both the channels were operated from Dubai with no interference of PEMRA and were closed by the group itself, just to malign the government.

Acting Chairman of the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) Dr Abdul Jabbar said that they will be issuing Geo a show cause notice for spreading false news about sports channel Geo Super.
The acting chairman said that Geo Super has been registered as an international channel, and not a national channel, therefore it does not have rights to transmit from Pakistan.
He explained that the channel only has landing rights, and not up-linking rights, adding that Geo Super also does not have the right to cover any event in Pakistan.
He alleged that Geo is misleading the public, and that Pemra will issue a show cause notice to Geo for that.

It is understood in the media world that the Media shall remain impartial in all contacts with the parties and will not advance the interests of one party over the other. But Geo and jang group is clearly supporting and favoring Imran Khan and his narratives on terrorism, drone and polity. During flood relief, Imran Khan has joined Mir Khalil ur Rehman Foundation (MKRF – Geo, The News, Jang group). Their union is called,‘Pukar’.

The Jang Group and Geo TV becomes party. The PPP rightly claims when it decided to boycott Geo and Jang Group for launching biased propaganda against the party ever since the present government assumed power, and rightly said that the geo group had emerged to be a political competitor of PPP over the last 2-3 years.

The Jang group suffers economically and financially due to this boycott. It has lost lots of viewership/readership. As PPP supporters and democratic liberal class is not watching Geo TV and not reading Jang group’s publications. And less viewers means less revenue. Geo also tops the list as of June 2010 with Rs 1.8 billion or USD 21 million approximately. Tax defaulters in Pakistani media: E&C Division-V RTO, Karachi. Moreover, the false news and concocted stories alike ‘Fake Wikileaks’ and hoax about president Asif Ali Zardari’s marriage are continuously undermining Jang Group’s credibility.

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Junaid Qaiser

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  • This Op-Ed, appearing in The News of April 24, 2011 should have been titled “Jang Group vs Jang Group”.

    Poverty of philosophy

    Najam Sethi
    Across the length and breadth of Pakistan, amongst journalists, politicians, generals and even judges, there is a poverty of philosophy that is crippling the development of a stable state and responsible society. From the personal to the political, from the ridiculous to the sublime, this poverty manifests itself everyday in reckless outbursts of remarks, statements and comments that obfuscate issues instead of clarifying them. Consider.
    Some well-known journalists have been predicting the end of the Zardari regime for over a year now by regularly giving D-Day deadlines. But President Asif Ali Zardari continues to defy their hollow predictions, prompting Javed Hashmi to wisecrack that a PhD in politics may be required to fathom his brand of politics. Considering how very consistently wrong they have proven to be, one may be forgiven for wondering whether it is lack of intelligence or scarcity of credible sources that lies at the root of their helplessness and rage. Or is it plain wishful thinking and personal vendettas that are masquerading as serious front-page political analyses?
    There is even less justification for them to run down fellow journalists who don’t subscribe to their predictions, unless it is that green eyed monster called jealousy. To say that Zardari will not be booted out by such or such a date for various reasons is not to say that he shouldn’t be booted out, but to assess the scientific likelihood of that happening without attributing any value judgment of a good or bad outcome to it. But those editors, reporters and columnists who have been predicting Zardari’s end want it to happen so desperately that they are ready to sacrifice their credibility at the altar of their mission. This is politics, not journalism.
    Much the same thing happened during General Pervez Musharraf’s last year in office. Sections of the media and civil society were so desperate to kick him out – albeit for the right reasons – that they were passionately intolerant of those among them who were inclined to shake their heads cold-bloodedly and say it wasn’t going to happen so soon. The lawyers’ movement in its heyday also demonstrated similar tendencies in the same sections of society between those who ardently wished the movement to be a revolutionary transformation to turn everything upside down and those who analysed it as a significant but non-revolutionary political transition to greater democracy. Surely, passion shouldn’t prevail over reason, or prejudice over logic; nor should one’s credibility be flogged at the altar of patriotism (these days it is synonymous with anti-Americanism), that classic last refuge of scoundrels.
    If to err is to be a journalist, politicians may claim even less credibility by the same yardstick. Mr Raza Hayat Heraj has floated a bill in the national assembly that aims to reduce the fundamental rights of certain categories of citizens. He says that Pakistanis with dual nationalities (Pak-American or Pak-Brit) should not be eligible for public office in Pakistan because their oath of loyalty to their country is divided. This is a matter of fact, hence it is eminently reasonable to make this demand to change the law. But then Mr Heraj succumbs to cheap populism when he demands that those with financial interests outside Pakistan should also be debarred from public office for the same reason.
    If he had asked for a legal ban on holding financial interests abroad, he would have been consistent at least in asking for targeting law-breakers from being excluded from public office. But to ask Pakistanis who have paid due taxes in Pakistan or in their foreign country of residence on incomes earned at home or abroad respectively to give up their fundamental rights is morally and legally wrong. The essence of free market economies is free capital movements. You cannot implore Pakistanis resident or working abroad to remit their disposable taxed incomes to Pakistan while restricting Pakistanis from repatriating similarly taxed incomes abroad in search of greater profitability and security. This would amount to punishing law-abiders like the ill-advised freeze on, and enforced conversion of, foreign currency deposits inside Pakistan after the nuclear tests in 1998.
    Mr Heraj’s bill is also poorly drafted: it refers to the income and wealth of people and their spouses and children, without sufficiently clarifying the core distinction between dependent spouses and children and non-dependent ones, regardless of the stakes they hold in the common property or wealth in contention. This is a reasonable critique. But it has apparently drawn Mr Heraj’s ire so much that he has lashed out personally at the messenger – when you can’t argue with someone’s logic, call him an American agent and clinch the argument – rather than debating or clarifying the message logically and reasonably. This would suggest a cheap shot at popularity rather than serious concern about the credibility and efficiency of parliamentarians or “public servants”.
    An example of the sublime without sufficient humility is also at hand. The chief justice of our country has recently lectured soldiers on the value and significance of the oath they take to defend and uphold the Constitution. Earlier, his message to bureaucrats and civil servants was along the same lines: don’t obey illegal orders from the executive. These belated lectures are to be roundly applauded, especially since many soldiers in general and coup-making generals in particular tend to think of the Constitution as a “scrap of paper” which can be torn up when they think the “interests” of the country are at stake. But the constitution is a social contract between the rulers and the ruled and embodies the interests of the nation, state and country above anything else.
    The same day that the CJP was lecturing potentially errant soldiers, the chief justice of India was elaborating the “canons of judicial ethics” and the doctrine of law that governs the relationship between the elected and sovereign parliament and the unelected and independent judiciary in any democratic political system. Justice Kapadia cautioned judges against over-reach in the guise of activism. He urged them not to ignore the doctrine of the separation of powers between the executive and judiciary as enshrined in the constitution. He said judges should not make policy or try to run administrations. He also said that judicial activism that is not grounded in any textual commitment to the constitution, unlike cases of human rights and life and personal liberty, raises questions of the accountability of judges. He concluded by remarking that judges should not sit as a super-legislative body to weigh the wisdom of legislation. “We should practise what we preach,” he urged his judicial colleagues.
    There is a poverty of philosophy when the army, judiciary, media and parliament neglect human development and spend scarce resources on non-productive sectors at the cost of an educated, informed, globally integrated population. This is what happens when one or the other organs of the state whip up passions and paranoia to maintain their narrow interests. They do so at the cost of the larger good. This is how we end up with a brutalised national mind; this is how mediocrity comes to reign supreme in every sphere of national life.

    The writer is Jang Group/Geo adviser on political affairs.

  • So, Mr Najam Sethi a new bridge-builder between the PPP and the Jang group, good appointment

  • The Jang group is desperately trying to damage control a situation that has gone badly worse. Therefore they hired Mr Najam Sethi, a journalist enjoying good relationship with presidential house.

  • Sir Ahmed,
    Jang Group: Admitting it’s own journalistic mistakes and reporting blunders via Najam Sethi

  • Cable operators accuse Geo, Jang of ‘blackmail’
    Published: October 31, 2010 http://tribune.com.pk/story/70328/cable-operators-accuse-geo-jang-of-blackmail/ KARACHI: The Cable Operators Association of Pakistan has accused a major media group of resorting to “blackmail” and said it is “inciting consumers to deny cable TV operators their monthly dues” and depriving them of their livelihood. Defamation charges: Mirza files privilege motion against Jang Group

  • Mir Shakil ur Rehman is coward/blackmailer/tax-chor as can be opined from submission before the national assembly of media houses not paying taxes.