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Washington Post’s report on Geo‏


The Washington Post’s Islamabad correspondent Karin Brulliard reports on Pakistani leading media group’s bias, irresponsible reporting, negativity against modern liberal concepts, anti American views, it’s pro religious extremist approach and anti democratic agenda.

KARACHI, Pakistan — In a nation that often appears engulfed by religious radicalism, a hit Pakistani film endorses ideas that are by local measures boldly liberal — inter-sectarian marriage, women’s rights and population control.

Yet the movie has what might seem an unlikely distributor: Pakistan’s largest media company, commonly referred to as the Geo-Jang Group, which is regularly criticized for using its four domestic television stations and two top newspapers to promote some very different ideas, including Islamist extremism, anti-Americanism and government loathing.

The ruling party of President Asif Ali Zardari, whose alleged corruption is obsessively chronicled by Geo Television, officially boycotts the group and portrays it as an enemy of democracy. The U.S. Embassy has accused it of fueling conspiracy theories.

But Geo — the group’s signature property — continues to thrive on a blend of rumor-filled talk shows, sensationalist breaking news and dashes of progressive programming. Its successes — and mixed messaging — serve as a barometer of the evolving tastes of Pakistan’s growing urban middle class and the power of private television in a country where the military and the mullahs often seem to drive the agenda.

So broad is Geo’s reach that the United States, despite its misgivings, subsidizes it. Geo is paid to broadcast a segment four nights a week from the U.S. government’s Voice of America, an arrangement that the U.S. Embassy sought to end in 2008 because of what it called the group’s “blatant hate speech and intentionally inaccurate and irresponsible reporting,” according to a cable obtained by WikiLeaks. That plea fizzled, U.S. officials said.

“We recognize them as . . . the biggest and most influential media outlet in the country,” said U.S. Embassy spokesman Alberto Rodriguez. “How can we not engage with them?”

Geo pioneered the television revolution in Pakistan, which had one state-owned broadcaster until media laws were relaxed in 2002. Today, one-third of Pakistan’s 180 million people have access to about 100 private channels via cable and satellite. Geo claims to broadcast 70 of the top 100 programs and, with Jang’s various publications, to have one reporter stationed nearly every four miles.

A May survey by the Washington-based Pew Research Center found that 76 percent of Pakistanis said the media positively influence the country, while only 20 percent said the U.S.-backed civilian government does. The ruling Pakistan People’s Party says that is partly the result of a Geo campaign to demonize it.

“They are soft on Islamists and tough on liberals,” said Farahnaz Ispahani, a spokeswoman for Zardari, the secular party’s co-chairman.

Geo and Jang executives dismiss such comments as stale criticism from people who can’t handle scrutiny. At his office on the edge of a buzzing newsroom in this southern metropolis, Geo chief executive Mir Ibrahim Rahman insisted the network supports tolerance and would gain nothing by scuttling democracy. The initial years of free debate in any country always magnify conflict and corruption, he said, illustrating his point with a graph he studied in a statistics class at Harvard, where he earned a master’s degree last year.

“Eventually, the dust will settle and we’ll have a cleaner room — a cleaner country,” said Rahman, 33, whose grandfather founded Jang.

Geo burnished its image as a populist crusader in 2007 when Pervez Musharraf, then Pakistan’s president, shut the network for two months as it avidly covered protests that eventually led to his ouster.

Today, it has cast itself in a starring role in Pakistan’s political theater by covering its own battles with the government. Geo accuses authorities of pulling the network off the air on various occasions — including after its coverage last summer of a Pakistani who threw a shoe at Zardari in London.

Government officials and the 2008 U.S. diplomatic cable allege that Geo stages blackouts so it can condemn state censorship. Geo officials deny that, although they acknowledge that the clashes help business.

“Every time we are shut, our ratings go up, our credibility goes up, and we are able to charge higher rates,” Rahman said.

That has remained the case despite scandals that critics cite as evidence that Geo fans intolerance. In 2007, Geo played mediator between militants holed up in an Islamabad mosque and the army forces surrounding it. In 2008, the assassinations of two leaders from the Ahmadi minority sect were widely blamed on hate-laced comments by guests on a religious talk show aired by Geo.

Last year, a recording allegedly captured Hamid Mir, the host of a popular Geo program, giving information to a Taliban militant about a former spy who was then in Taliban custody. Mir said the tapes were doctored by intelligence officers angry at him for reporting on state-sponsored abductions; Rahman said an internal investigation supported that account.

Some Geo-Jang Group editors say privately that Mir should have been fired. Imran Aslam, Geo’s president, said efforts have been made to hire more “rational and reasoned political analysts,” including Najam Sethi, a prominent left-wing journalist who hosts a new program.

“From the news business, it went to show business. It needs to go back,” said Mohammad Malick, a Geo talk show host and editor of the group’s English-language daily, the News.

Geo has, at times, taken on progressive issues that few politicians are willing to touch. In 2006, the network campaigned against Islamic laws equating rape with criminal adultery, a project that even critics acknowledge led to the laws’ amendment. One current initiative urges people to pay taxes; another promotes peace with Pakistan’s arch-foe India, which could vastly expand Geo’s market. “Bol,” the summer’s hit movie, promotes family planning, an explosive idea among conservative Muslims.

Pakistani liberals say those campaigns, while positive, skirt scrutiny of the institution most responsible for stoking religious intolerance and hyper-nationalism: the powerful military. The army is widely believed to be tainted by corruption and supportive of some Islamist militant groups, but Geo, like its competitors, avoids deep probes.

“The private media in general is polishing the military’s boots,” said Aasim Sajjad, an assistant professor of political economy at Quaid-e-Azam University in Islamabad.

That changed somewhat after the U.S. raid that killed Osama bin Laden in May, which prompted even some of Geo’s most jingoistic anchors to lambaste the military. Jang editors contend that the group holds little favor with the army, and some admit they tread carefully after decades of military rule.

“Tomorrow, the civilian government may be rolled up,” said Rana Jawad, Geo’s bureau chief in Islamabad. “There may be no courts to hear your plight.”

The 2008 U.S. Embassy cable concluded that the Jang Group’s reporting was driven by one agenda: ratings.

Three years later, Rahman said, such considerations are prompting Geo to question the partnership with Voice of America. As anti-Americanism and outrage over CIA drone strikes rise, the network might be labeled a U.S. ally, he said.

“It’s just too risky for us,” Rahman said of airing American content. “It’s a perception issue.”

Special correspondent Shaiq Hussain contributed to this report.

Source: The Washington Post

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Junaid Qaiser

11 Comments

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  • @ Abdul Nishapuri , sir the only thing that came to your mind was ” excellent research by karin Brulliard ” vow i appreciate your outstanding level of analysis. May i add something. Being a Pakistani channel GEO has all the right to be Pro pak as it is in the case of CNN , Fox News bla bla bla. According to American so called writers whatever is Anti American is negative propaganda. Please grow up and think sensibly and one more thing You dont have to be a Mulla to hate America, there are 1000s of reasons to hate the global terrorists.

  • @Pak shia

    You must understand that Abdul Nishapuri is the owner of the blogg and lives in the US. He must say yes sir no sir to any and every American as the US feeds him his daily bread.

    Down with PPP jiyalas and PPP corrupt politicians.

  • Down with these nameless people like “ZAB”.
    It were only we the Jialas who have sacrificed for humanity.
    Merey charagar ko navid ho safe dushmanan ko khabar karo
    Jo woh qarz rakhtey they wo hasab aaj chuka dya
    Zulifqar Ali Bhuto on 4th April 1979
    Benazir Bhutto on 27th december 2007

  • I am happy to see that LUBP’s efforts in exposing Jang Group and Geo TV have borne fruit that now even US newspapers are compelled to analyze their angling and bias.

    well done LUBP

  • Ahmed Iqbalabadi

    I had not realised that you are that naive. LUBP exposing someone. You have to expose LUBP ( a tool of the US zionists).

    And for this poetic jiala. You do not even know the meaning of Jiala. Zulafiqar was sentenced to death for his complicity in a murder and Benazir murder was arranged by another jiala. Yes both of them were SHAHEED.Ha Ha Ha.

  • Good that the international press is taking note of the poison that the Jang group spouts. Wish they had mentioned corruption of the group also.

  • Sometimes, investigative journalism in Pakistan remains merely a case of whole-scale copying of files handed out by aggrieved bureaucrats whose only bone of contention lies in being on the losing end of the commission dispute. The journalists are a funny breed these days; they demand western standards of accountability and governance from our elected leaders but, as institutions, fail to follow the same standards ourselves. Let us investigate! Our investigative journalists regularly name and shame our elected leaders, yet they refuse to question the ways the executive functions in this country. Since official ministerial communication is carried out by the concerned secretary, no corruption can take place without the abatement of the bureaucracy. Sometimes, investigative journalism in Pakistan remains merely a case of whole-scale copying of files handed out by aggrieved bureaucrats whose only bone of contention lies in being on the losing end of the commission dispute.

  • The current journalism was not fair, and is following someone else’s agenda. Few faction of media was constantly pressurising 180 million Pakistanis through its talk shows, reporting and analysis for the reasons best known to them. GeoTV telecast 605 anti-PPP and anti-Asif Ali Zardari programmes out of 615 shows, but the record showed that only four programmes were presented against the PML-N. Similarly, Geo TV repeated 300 times the cases against President Zardari, where free and fair courts have quashed cases against president. The Jang Group, published 85 percent stories against the president of Pakistan in 485 news published in the daily Jang. The daily Jang, published 567 editorials wherein 480 were against her party and its president. Out of a total of 4,569 new reports published by The News, 2613 were against the PPP and Asif Zardari. Out of a total of 1,421 columns, 1,255 were against the PPP and the president. Out of the total 782 editorials published by The News in one year, 701 were against the PPP and Zardari. This is one-year performance of Geo and Jang Group publications.