ISLAMABAD: The scandal about alleged harassment in the state-run Pakistan Television (PTV) has taken a new turn as the PTV management has slapped a ban on two of its female anchors for taking to social media and appearing in talk shows to ‘defame the organisation’.
Prior to taking the issue to media, the female anchors — Tanzeela Mazhar and Yashfeen Jamal — had complained to the PTV management against an employee Agha Masood Shorish for the alleged sexual advances and harassment.
On January 20, the PTV management issued circular stating that ‘certain’ PTV employees were using social media to comment on matters that were currently being inquired into officially.
“Such comments must be removed or deleted within 24 hours of issuance of the circular, failing which strict disciplinary action will be taken,” the circular read.
However, both the anchors did not remove the content from their social media handles and also discussed the issue on Sunday in the Express TV show ‘To The Point’ with Mansoor Ali Khan.
Later, the PTV’s Controller Current Affairs Habibur Rehman issued a letter on Monday stating that both the anchors are banned immediately as anchors as well as participants in the PTV News.
“This is apropos to the January 22, 2017 TV show in which both the female anchors participated with beepers, defaming the PTV organisation,” it said.
The notice further stated that no organisation could afford such insulting and defamatory behaviour of anchors in spite of their being on the payroll of the PTV. There is already underway an internal inquiry headed by a female officer of the information ministry with authority of the judicial magistrate, it said.
Taking to Twitter
For the last one week, the issue is being discussed on the social media, especially Twitter, where one of the anchors Tanzeela Mazhar shared details of the alleged harassment. People from different walks of life have started supporting the anchor for ‘speaking out’.
Mazhar shared screenshots of personal chat, alleging Director Current Affairs Agha Masood Shorish of sexually harassing her and Yashfeen Jamal. Both have also been stating that the environment in the state-run television is hostile and condescending to women.
The tweets by the anchors have received different responses from different segments of society and many have supported them and appreciated their stance. However, several people, including some officials of the PTV, shared screenshots and tweets giving ‘the other side of the story’.
Mazhar in one of her tweets said: “Women are being victimised for standing against anti-woman practices and mindset.” However, TV anchor and Mazhar’s colleague Imran Hassan replied in one of the tweets that harassment law is to protect women. “Please do not abuse it for your personals gains, stop playing with PTV’s image.”
Talking to The Express Tribune, Shorish termed all the allegations baseless and defamatory and said he would urge the management to release findings of the report to clear the confusion.
An official privy to the developments said investigation into the issue had been finalised and the PTV Chairperson Attaul Haq Qasmi had the report, adding that a decision on the report will be taken soon.
A PTV staffer, familiar with the controversy, said for the last many years some of the anchors – including the above two – had been provided with more on-air opportunities in the primetime as well as financial benefits than other anchors.
“Now what has happened all of a sudden that they have taken to social media to raise their voice against the person who once supported them,” he maintained.
On Friday, the PPP also submitted a calling attention notice with the National Assembly Secretariat urging the Federal Minister for Human Rights to take action against incidents of sexual harassment at state-run television.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 24th, 2017.