Geo Media Group, Foreign Agenda and Double Standard
Undoubtedly, media is a powerful instrument to build perceptions and promote ideologies. Media houses like Geo and Jang Group, due to their area of influence, wealth and assets inland and abroad, have become a monster in Pakistan. By acting upon the anti-Pakistan propaganda for the sake of money, this media group follows its own peculiar agenda, and keeps its financial interests above the national interests of Pakistan.
While leaders of various political and religious parties including all the segments of society have already been condemning the Geo TV channel showing solidarity with Pakistan’s armed forces and Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI), as deducing hastily outcome of the assault on its anchor Hamid Mir, this media group left no stone unturned in defaming the national institutions like ISI including its DG. But countrywide protests and rallies started against theGeo Media Group after its channel showed blasphemous content on May 14, this year, in its entertainment morning show “Utho Jago Pakistan” by playing a Qawwali (a genre of sufi music) “Ali ke Saath hai Zahra ki Shaadi” in the background of actress Veena Malik and her husband Assad Bashir Khattak’s wedding reenactment. It is a famous Qawwali about the marriage of Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH) daughter Syeda Fatima Zehra (R.A) with his cousin Hazrat Ali (R.A).
The names of Ahl-e-Bait (family of Prophet Muhammad PBUH) were taken during the broadcast on Geo TV’ show which sparked outcry all over the country by the general masses, students lawyers, members of civil society, religious organizations which continue their protest rallies, and strikes chanting slogans and placards inscribed with—Ban the Geo TV.
Earlier, the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) which issued a show-cause notice to the Geo TV in defaming the ISI also slammed it with another show-cause notice for airing blasphemous content.
Nevertheless, irreligious act of the Geo channel appeared like a blow from the sky, as people have already been praising the armed forces and ISI. In this context, besides other leaders, and political parties, even Jamat-i-Islami remarked that Geo and Jang group has been implementing anti-Pakistan agenda of external powers. Especially, Chairman, Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaf (PTI), Imran Khan who has also defended the stance of Army and ISI, announced to boycott Geo and Jang group. In a press conference on May 17, Imran Khan displayed documentary evidence, revealing that Geo TV is working against the national interests of Pakistan and is being funded by foreign countries like UK and the US State Department for shaping the national narrative on foreign agendas, while there is no audit of the Geo network which blackmails those who raise question in this connection.
Imran Khan disclosed, “Mir Shakil-ur-Rehman, owner of the Geo and Jang Group has established a trust (MKRF) through which he gets foreign funding and so far he has received 6.9 million pounds—this amount was questioned by Lord Nazir in the British House of Lords as well.” He pointed out that Mir Shakil-ur-Rehman “protects his financial interests through his media house, whereas Geo TV network is defaulter of PEMRA and Sindh Revenue Board. National Bank is owed Rs.1.8 Billion as of 2010.” Imran Khan said, “PML (N) and Geo are the one team having common interests—Najam Sethi, an employee for Geo TV was made PCB chairman as a gift of Geo’s services, and rigging in the elections 2013 by Najam Sethi.”
Imran Khan further added, “Media trial of ISI and its chief by Geo TV is extremely condemnable which was done as per agenda set by Mir Shakil ur Rehman.”
A few days ago, Imran Khan also criticized the said TV channel’s “Aman Ki Asha” campaign in the eastern border and “Jang ki Asha” (A campaign for War) in the western border which shows its double standard, while rejecting foreign allegations that ISI or Army is supporting militancy in Afghanistan. He had also indicated that the “US and India will be gladly looking at the maligning of Pakistan’s armed forces by the country’s own TV channel.”
While Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan stated on April 25, 2014 that one-sided media trial by the Geo TV and Jang group against Pakistan’s armed forces and ISI which have been serving the greater national interests of Pakistan, should end.
In this regard, processions and rallies by various political and religious parties continue unabated in support of the armed forces and ISI, demanding that that Geo and Jang group must be shut down due to its anti-state activities, and implementation of foreign agenda against Pakistan. However, it indicates that these positive developments have been reinvigorating the national institutions like ISI, while countering all negative propaganda against it.
Every thing became crystal clear when foreign media, NGOs and human rights groups reactivated their campaign against Pakistan, its army and especially superior spy agency by projecting the so-called propaganda of the Geo TV by favouring the misconceptions of its anchor and journalist Hamid Mir.
Unfortunately, ISI has been in the eye of the wicked storm ever since extra-regional imperialists started expanding their influence in South Asia and Afghanistan. India has been in the forefront to implicate ISI and Pak Army. However, Hamid Mir episode and subsequent media campaign launched by Geo TV to malign ISI and its DG created conditions for Indian and western media to propagate against ISI and its top leadership.
Besides Indian media, in this respect, on April 28, voicing his support for the Pakistani journalist Hamid Mir, former external affairs minister and BJP leader Yashwant Sinha called upon Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif through a letter to stop ISI from suspending Geo TV license.
In this connection, while hinting towards the Geo media group, senior journalist Majid Nizami commented, “Certain TV channel of Pakistan appears to be Indian.” This is due to its tendency to follow Indian narrative, during its electronic coverage. Since long Indian propagandists labeled ISI “a state within state”, while insinuating that ISI was harboring terrorists. Domestic media like the Geo and Jung group, instead of countering Indian false accusations against ISI followed Indian themes and launched a media tirade against this intelligence agency.
It is notable that Geo Media and Jang Group projects the power of its TVchannels and publications that rule of law is supreme and it must be followed under all circumstances. In Pakistan, the Geo Group has also been in the forefront in offering suggestions to the government for the consumption of domestic and foreign public that rules of law must be followed to indict the former President Gen. Pervez Musharraf in treason case. Its anchors and writers also assertively project that constitution must be followed in letter by suggesting action against violators of the constitution. But, at personal level, Geo commentators and reporters have been addressing Gen. Pervez as the accused Musharraf, even prior to his official indictment.
It is mentionable that when Geo Media Group and its editorial board committed the acts of libel and defamation against country’s secret agency ISI and its DG, its owner Mir Shakeel-ur-Rehman failed to demonstrate higher moral grounds and respect for the rule of law. When law is to be activated against others, Geo becomes over-assertive, but when the case is of self- accountability, the Group demonstrates double standard and hypocrisy.
In these terms, Western models of media set high quality and morally sound precedence. It is of particular attention that Geo Media Group has learnt nothing from the role model when Rupert Murdoch, the owner of 150 years old newspaper “News of the World” in United Kingdom himself decided to close his paper, as it was found involved in taping the public conversations. Although the crime committed by “News of the World” was unscrupulous and unethical, yet the owner’s closure-decision saved its reputation and maintained its image. In fact, the owner’s moral courage was much higher than the real stature of Mir Shakil-ur-Rehman and other leading employees of the Geo and Jang Group.
Nonetheless, Geo Media Group has committed libel and defamation act against national institution like ISI and its DG. The entire nation and all media houses (other than Geo) found Geo guilty of committing act of defamation. It is the double standard and hypocrisy of the Geo Group to go into defiance mode to maintain its blatant position. Despite itswealth, external and internal political backing, this media group will not be able to hide the truth, as Geo has launched campaign against ISI for which it stands accountable.
Now, Geo Media Group is cleverly finding refuge under the plea of freedom of expression in to avoid the treason charges. Geo is also collecting evidence in its favour by using paid contents published through its own newspapers showing that a considerable number of audiences support its stance. If Geo is true in its stance, it does not need to make any noise, as it is presently doing on large scale, because only guilty conscious entities make such outcry.
At this hour,own media must prove that confusing behavioral pattern of Geo proves that it is guilty of charges leveled against it. A patriotic person or media group does not need to make noise about his loyalty. Good conduct and concern for the state including image of own key national institutions like ISI prove the patriotism that people of Pakistan are mature enough to assess who is promoting foreign agenda through double standard and hypocrisy.
Sajjad Shaukat writes on international affairs and is author of the book: US vs Islamic Militants, Invisible Balance of Power: Dangerous Shift in International Relations