The Ministry of Defence on Tuesday submitted a complaint with the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) seeking action against Geo TV for tarnishing the image of a state institution, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).
The complaint was submitted under the Pemra Ordinance and rules for a false and scandalous campaign undermining the integrity and tarnishing the image of state institution ISI and its officers, sources told The Express Tribune.
The four-page complaint, which includes the script of news bulletins, tickers and breaking news, says that ‘the said reporting has violated the specific terms and conditions of its licence’.
The violation of terms and conditions of the licence issued by Pemra to the Independent Media Corporation (Pvt) Ltd makes the network liable for measures including ‘cancellation of licence by Pemra’.
The complaint urges Pemra to ‘immediately suspend the licence, and after examining the facts cancel the licence of the Independent Media Corporation (Pvt) Ltd granted under Section 20 of the Pemra Ordinance, 2002’.
It seeks ‘… prosecution of the editorial team and management of Geo under Sections 33 and 36 of the Pemra Ordinance 2002 read with all enabling provisions and the Pemra rules as amended from time to time’.
Referring to the April 19 incident, the complaint says that ‘apparently an assassination attempt was made by some unknown assailants at around 1730 hours at Karachi on Hamid Mir, an anchorperson associated with Geo News, a venture held and operated by M/S Independent Media Corporation (Pvt) Ltd, Karachi. Immediately thereafter, a vicious campaign libelous and wherein false accusations were made against a state institution tasked to work for the defence, sovereignty and integrity of Pakistan i.e. Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and its DG Lt General Muhammad Zaheerul Islam’.
“The telecast in question/campaign was aimed at undermining the integrity and tarnishing the image of the state institution and its officers and falsely linking it with the terrorist outfits/activities,” it said.
“The attempt was detrimental to the interest of the institution and the country. The said footage was picked up by foreign media, particularly Indian channels, who instead of objectively reporting the incident overplayed it repeatedly,” it added.
The complaint says, ‘The reporting made and the programs aired cannot be viewed as a single event. Geo Network has a history of acting illegally in furtherance of the anti-Pakistan agenda. If required, material can be provided to the regulator. The inability of the editorial team and management or monitoring staff at Geo failed to either control the content and deliberately allowed scandalous views to go on air. This constitutes a breach of terms of its licence and violating code of conduct. Moreover, the above instance establishes that the editorial team and management of Geo has clearly violated the following provisions of Pemra rules/code of conduct, making Geo liable for cancellation of its licence: (a) Rule 15 of Pemra rules (b) Para (c), (g), (j) of standing code of conduct (c) Section 20(a) of the Pemra Ordinance (d) Section 27(a) of the Pemra Ordinance.”
“The said false, malicious and irresponsible reporting is a continuation of the policy of Geo Network for maligning the state institutions as it has done earlier in the case of Daniel Pearl, Wali Khan Babar, the killing of Mr Hammad (an officer of Supreme Court of Pakistan) and also the killing of parents of an honorable judge of the Supreme Court at Lahore. The malicious campaign later proved false.”
The complaint further said that the print media, particularly Jang and The News also published defamatory, libelous and scandalous material as has been done by their sister-concerns in electronic media. The management, therefore, followed the suit and joined hands for carrying out the above mentioned illegal acts.
This makes the said publications and the persons responsible for actions under i) Sections 3, 4 and 9 of the Defamation Ordinance 2002, ii) Sections 19 and 27 of the Press, Newspaper, News Agencies and Books Registration Ordinance, 2002 and the rules framed there-under and also the terms and conditions of the licence/declarations granted or operated there under and iii) the measures and mechanism under the Press Council of Pakistan Ordinance, 2002.
A senior official told The Express Tribune that a sealed envelope carrying the defence ministry’s application from the secretary defence was delivered for the Pemra chairman at 9:32 pm. “Pemra will discuss the entire issue in its Board of Directors meeting on April 24,” sources added.
Interior minister expresses grave concern
Earlier in the day, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan expressed serious concern over the ongoing slurs against the national security institutions in the backdrop of the attack on Hamid Mir.
“It is a matter of serious concern that national institutions are being attacked and blamed without any evidence in the garb of this attack,” the minister said in statement. “Nowhere in the world key national security institutions were ever criticised and blamed in this manner,” he added.
He said that while negative propaganda against state institutions was made by particular circles, ‘our enemies disseminated it to the whole world’. He added that the government has constituted a three-member judicial commission to probe the attack and there was no justification for such baseless allegations.
While condemning the attack on Hamid Mir, the minister said it is a tragedy not only for his family but for the entire nation and the journalists’ community.
Nisar said the officers and Jawans of armed forces were laying down their lives for the security of Pakistan. And the unilateral negative propaganda against national security institutions is not only regrettable but also condemnable.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 23rd, 2014.