Najam Sethi: Geo’s Catch-22? – by Noha Beig
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.