Fact Finding Commission's report -Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Paksitan Press Foundtion

Fact Finding Commission’s report

KARACHI (May 25 2007): Report of Fact Finding Commission (FFC) on attack on Business Recorder and Aaj TV: 1. The APNS President, Hameed Haroon vide letter dated May 18, 2007 formed a Fact Finding Commission (FFC) on receipt of complaint of violence/attack against Aaj TV/Business Recorder.

2. THE COMMISSION COMPRISED THE FOLLOWING MEMBERS:

Owais Aslam Ali, Convenor, Syed Iqbal Haider, Ghazi Salahuddin, Jamil Yousuf, Ms Zohra Yousuf and Ms Uzma Noorani.

3. The Commission was requested by the APNS to investigate the complaint of Arshad A. Zuberi, Deputy Chief Executive, and Daily Business Recorder wherein he had stated that on May 12, 2007, the offices of Business Recorder and Aaj TV were attacked by armed men both from the road side as well as the roof tops of the surrounding buildings. He had further complained that, despite repeated requests, the government functionaries and law enforcing agencies failed to protect the staff and the property of Aaj TV and Business Recorder.

4. On May 17, 2007 the APNS informed the Commission that in a telephonic conversation with Hameed Haroon, the Secretary Information, Syed Anwar Mahmood had observed that Aaj TV had broadcast some objectionable material on May 12, 2007 and later on May 14, 2007. The Secretary Information had sent hand written observations on a copy of APNS letter dated May 16, 2007 addressed to him along with four CDs of recordings of Aaj TV to support his contention. The APNS forwarded the above letter and the CDs for the perusal of the Commission.

5. The Commission held two meetings on May 17 and May 19, 2007 at the premises of Aaj TV. The members considered the following issues as requested by the APNS:

5.1. Were the buildings of Aaj TV and Business Recorder attacked?

5.2. Involvement of the government, political parties or agencies in the attack on Aaj TV?

5.3. Merit to the complaints/observations against Aaj TV?

6. The members visited the premises of the Aaj TV and Business Recorder and saw the damage caused by gunfire to different departments of the news organisations. They viewed the four CDs sent by the Secretary Information as well as the presentations of Ahmed Zuberi, MD, Aaj TV. The Commission also examined the allegations of Secretary Information contained in the hand-written observations referred to above.

7. The findings of the Commission are as under:

7.1. Cross Fire: The contention that the building of Aaj TV was solely caught in the cross-fire was found incorrect. The Commission noted that due to location of Aaj TV it was able to provide live coverage of the exchange of firing between two rival groups,

7.1.1. When the gunmen found that they were being filmed shown on Aaj TV they turned their guns at the premises of Aaj TV to stop the coverage. Failing to dislodge the cameraman and the camera lenses, the gunmen climbed unto the buildings in the surrounding area for more effect. The assailants not only fired at the premises of Aaj TV which is located at the second building behind the Business Recorder Building but also stoned the premises and torched vehicles parked in the parking lot of these organisations.

7.1.2. The Commission also noted that the premises were fired on by both the rival groups as bullets were found on the both sides of the building.

7.1.3 The Commission was informed during interviews with the employees of Aaj TV, that many staff members were traumatised because they was under siege for about six hours.

7.2. Involvement of government, political parties and agencies: The Commission noted that the gunmen were clearly visible in the recording provided by the Secretary Information and could be identified by law enforcing agencies. The Commission observed that it was beyond its jurisdiction to identify the parties or group involved in the attack.

7.2.1 On May 19, the Commission was briefed by Arshad A. Zuberi on the contacts made by the management of Business Recorder and Aaj TV. His statement is recorded as under:

7.2.2. The management of Aaj TV called upon the following authorities for help.

7.2.3. The Home Secretary Sindh, Brigadier Mohatram (Retd) was requested to send in the Police.

7.2.4. Arshad Zuberi called the Governor Sindh, Dr Ishratul Ibad and was informed that D.G. Rangers, Major General Javaid Zia was present at the Governor House. Arshad A. Zuberi on telephone spoke with the Major General Zia and he promised help but no help was received.

7.2.5. Then, the Sindh Minister for Industries A. Siddiqui was called to help with his Sector Commanders. He promised to help. On the second call to Siddiqui, Zuberi was told by the Minister, that he has spoken to the Governor Sindh and D.G. Rangers and help is on the way. On the 3rd call Minister Siddiqui said he has asked the Prime Minister to intervene but no help was received.

7.2.6. On the 2nd call to D.G. Rangers, he was told by the D.G. that help is on the way and that he was commencing on a helicopter and Brigadier Kamran at Rangers Office is overseeing the help to Business Recorder/Aaj TV. Brigadier Kamran when contacted said that help was on the way, but no help was received.

7.2.7. The Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister, Khalid Saeed called from Islamabad to tell Arshad A. Zuberi that Prime Minister has ordered the D.G. Rangers to give protection but no help was received.

7.2.8. During this period, the Minister of Ports and Shipping Babar Ghouri was also contacted twice. He also said that Adil Siddiqui is helping out, but no help was received.

7.2.9. Ultimately a family member of the President General Pervez Musharraf called just before sunset to inquire what was going on. When informed the dire situation he said let me see what I can do? He called back in 10 minutes and said, “Help is on the way. The Number One has spoken to the D.G. Rangers and they will be there in 15 to 20 minutes.” Within 15 minutes, the Rangers and Police reached Guru Mandir to stand between the two warring groups and then force the dispersal.

7.3. Observations of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting:

7.3.1. The Commission watched the DVD received by APNS from the Ministry of Information containing the objectionable material and examined the hand-written objections/observations of Secretary Information that Aaj TV broadcast the following incorrect information.

i. “Ethnic riots have started. People are being beaten in their houses.”

The commission received categorical denial of Aaj TV that any such words or sentences were used by any of Aaj news team as was evident from the scanning of the recordings provided by the Secretary Information.

ii. “Corps Commander’s Office has been surrounded.”

It was verified that the Aaj TV anchor, during a telephone talk, asked one of its reporters if such information was true. The reporter denied the veracity of such information; instead clarified that several people had said they would stage a sit-in in front of the Corps Commander’s Office, as they believe that his office could help them.

iii. “Chief Justice Sindh High Court has summoned Corps Commander?

Like all the other TV channels of Pakistan, Aaj TV did telecast this information which was refuted by the ISPR on May 13, through all the major dailies and TV channels of Pakistan. Moreover, as Aaj TV received the updated news, the channel ran tickers of correction.

7.3.2. The Commission expressed concerns at the lack of access to official information during this time of the crisis which made working in such an environment even more difficult for the media.

7.3.3. Commission was also of the unanimous opinion that the target firing on the buildings of Aaj TV was intended to intimidate and prevent the electronic media from performing their professional duties and it was a blatant attack on the Freedom of Press and Expression in violation of the Constitution.

7.3.4. The Commission noted with regret that none of the Law Enforcement Agencies or concerned Officials of the Administration came to the rescue of the Aaj Television or offered any kind of help until later after several hours when General Pervez Musharraf issued strict instructions.

7.3.5. The Commission was unanimously of the opinion that the electronic media in general and Aaj TV in particular played an important and commendable role in telecasting this important event while at great risk to their lives and property.

7.4. Recommendations:

7.4.1 The Commission recommended that the APNS should take up this issue with the higher authorities that protection of journalists and offices media establishments is ensured.

7.42 The Commission also recommended that a judicial commission of inquiry into the attack on Aaj TV be formed at the earliest.
Source: Business Recorder
Date:5/26/2007