ISLAMABAD: While the probe into alleged sexual harassment at the state-run Pakistan Television (PTV) has prolonged, the accused has filed a defamation suit against the two female anchors who are also considering approaching the federal ombudsman for a ‘transparent’ inquiry.
A five-member inquiry committee – consisting of officials from the PTV and the information and broadcasting ministry – opened the probe in November 24 against current affairs director Agha Masood Shorish on a complaint filed by two anchorpersons, Tanzeela Mazhar and Yashfeen Jamal.
Both the anchors complained against Shorish for alleged sexual advances and harassment.
According to the Protection against Harassment of Women at Workplace Act 2010, the inquiry committee was bound to submit its findings and recommendations within 30 days of launching the inquiry. However, it submitted its report to the PTV managing director on January 26.
PTV slaps ban on anchors for ‘defaming organisation’
The government has been tight-lipped about the release of the report since then. State Minister for Information Marriyum Aurangzeb told The Express Tribune in a text message that “nobody is delaying (the report) but the chair of the committee wanted to write a dissenting note.”
The PTV has already slapped a ban on the anchors for defaming the organisation after they appeared in Express News talk show To the Point with Mansoor Ali Khan on Jan 22.
Earlier on Jan 20, the PTV issued a circular that said ‘certain’ PTV employees were using social media to comment on matters that were currently being inquired into. It had asked such people not to discuss the issue in public.
Legal notice from the accused
As the debate about the issue continues on social media, the accused, Shorish has served a legal notice to the anchors for defaming him and his family.
“Our client’s family (specifically the daughter who recently got married) is under immense torture and mental agony because of your malicious campaign, which is continuing,” the suit stated.
It said the media campaign, vide public and social media including television and social media is highly reprehensible, immoral and unethical, the purpose of which is nothing but to tarnish the image of the accused and his family.
“The campaign has badly tarnished the image and lowered in the estimation of others exposing our client to unjust and unwarranted ridicule, criticism and dislike and hatred and as a result led to tremendous damage to the reputation of our client nationally and internationally,” it said.
PPP urges govt to take notice of sexual harassment reports at PTV
An official of the information ministry privy to consultations of the probe body said both the anchors made it difficult for them to release the report after they took to TV and social media about the case. “That’s why we had to stop and decided to release it after thorough examination,” the official said.
Another senior official of the PTV – who was not authorised to comment on the probe – said the anchors might have preempted that the report was giving ‘clean chit’ to the accused, and so they started questioning the way they were quizzed.
The anchors have told their peers in PTV that they would take the case to the federal ombudsman office as they consider the committee was ‘unjust to them’. Last year in July, the ombudsman directed the PTV to terminate one of its employees for alleged harassment. Shorish is on forced leave since December.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 5th, 2017.