GEO's response to Imran Khan's allegations -Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Paksitan Press Foundtion

GEO’s response to Imran Khan’s allegations

Pakistan Press Foundation

KARACHI: A Jang Group spokesman has given the following response to the allegations leveled by PTI chief Imran Khan in a press conference on Friday.

Allegation 1: GEO rigged the 2013 elections along with Chief Justice, bureaucracy and the PML-N. GEO announced PML-N as the winner at 11:05pm when only 19% of votes had been cast. GEO influenced the returning officers to swing the elections in favour of PML-N and showed Nawaz Sharif announcing himself as the winner at 11:23pm.

GEO’s Response 1:

Rigging can’t take place during vote count as votes are counted in front of party representative at each polling station. Rigging takes place before vote counting during the actual voting process. Voting finished between 5-6pm. There is no way GEO or any media could influence rigging or be involved in rigging at 11:05pm which was 5 hours after voting had closed. Kamran Khan and GEO News name shouldn’t be tarnished just because Kamran Khan showed partial results at 11:05pm.

In fact, Ayaz Khan of Express News said the following during Express News election transmission at 10:21 pm. Mey yeh dekh raha hoon ke PML-N centre mein hukoomat bana sakti hey or Punjab mey unki government banegi aur Sindh mey PPP government banaey gi or mein yeh dekh raha hoon ke opposition bhi PPP ki hi hogi.

Nawaz Sharif’s speech was shown by all channels and in fact GEO News was not even the first channel to show the speech.

Regarding showing partial results, whether based on 19% or 30% polling station results, a frequent was flashing on screen and being repeated verbally by our newscaster letting our viewers know that these are non-official and partial results. All over the world partial results are given in elections and in our case we were also showing per constituency what % of the polling station results have come in. This was not a projection but actual results that we were getting from our correspondents of 11,000 people that day who were getting polling station results directly from polling stations and returning officers and Election Commission sources. All channels were airing partial results and the same was done in 2002 and 2008. The method that was used to announce results was consulted by Dr. Ijaz Shafi Gilani (Gallup Pakistan) and Salman Naseer Danish (PTI) and was statistically safe. This is verified by comparing the result that GEO had given to other channels and final election results announced by the Election Commission. The difference between all channels was less than 10% though GEO was airing the results first due to its larger network and experience. If GEO had rigged the elections, were all top 5 news channels also involved as they were airing similar results? All local and international poll projections had also predicted similar trend as of the elections, does that mean they were also involved in rigging the elections with GEO?

Mudassir Rizvi, CEO FAFEN which was the largest network of voter monitoring and fraud monitoring, told GEO News on camera yesterday, “Geo News is not responsible for rigging, we can only hold those responsible that had position of authority. We had an information sharing agreement with GEO which aired much of our data regarding rigging.” GEO News also received a note of appreciation for our contribution for elections 2013 transmission from FAFEN.

Iftikhar Ahmad, Director Elections at Jang Group and senior anchorperson, has challenged Imran Khan to an open debate to prove his allegations and provide evidence. Iftikhar Ahmad also said, “Why these allegations were not part of the white paper that was released by PTI on elections rigging? Why is GEO being attacked now? And if Khan wants to improve election reforms then shouldn’t it be one year before the next elections, why now? I think Khan needs to be more mature and realise why he actually lost and show more sportsman sprit.”

However at the same time we do want to acknowledge that rigging did take place and it is most unfortunate. GEO would support any positive reforms PTI would like to recommend that will help stop rigging. In fact, GEO aired hours of footage on rigging and exposed it from morning of the elections day. At least two hours of rigging footage that went on air can be provided if required. Hamid Mir, Iftikhar Ahmad and Sohail Warraich did programmes on rigging the same night of elections. Hamid Mir did a two hours show of rigging allegations of Dr Alvi of PTI.

Allegation 2: PTI and Imran Khan have also falsely accused Jang/GEO group of receiving special favour by the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) to acquire rights for the cricket series against Sri Lanka through its Chairman Mr. Najam Sethi who also hosts a programme on the Network. Khan said this was done as a favour for rigging the elections.

GEO Response 2: We have already in writing told Imran Khan that the whole process was conducted in open and transparent manner and was witnessed by both bidders (GEO Super and Ten Sports) and a bid committee comprised of Ehsan Mani as chairman legal department of PCB, retired judge, member of BOG, COO, CFO of PCB and independent international auditors (Price Waterhouse and Coopers). In fact Ehsan Mani is also board member of Shaukat Khanum and a friend of Khan. We had requested please consult with Ehsan Mani if he agrees with your allegation or meet the auditors?

Ten Sports won the South Africa series rights through the bidding process and GEO Super won the Sri Lanka series rights due to higher bid amounts. Ten Sports is a 100 percent Indian owned company and yet no one raised an eyebrow against them or wrote articles one after the other. Due to interim appointments, the Supreme Court, at that time, did not allow the PCB to enter into any long-term sale of rights that is why the bidding for the matches was for two series only and not 5 years. Also Khan has alluded that we had rigged the elections and in return we got one 14 day match rights? GEO and Jang Group have lost over 600 crores for supporting the lawyers movement fighting a military dictator. Jang Group had also been shut down by Nawaz Sharif in 1998-99 and was boycotted by PPP as well in previous government who had banned all advertising to the largest media group. If GEO didn’t sell out then why would it do now, and that too for Pakistan vs Sir Lanka rights?

Allegation 3: Zara Sochiye of Geo had received sponsorship of 20 million pounds, and Aman Ki Asha was sponsored by Indians through Doordarshan. This was in the Supreme Court Media Commission report.

GEO Response 3: Yes this was in the Media Commission report but it was not part of the main report but as part of minutes with PEMRA, which GEO had been suing because of its partiality. In fact Supreme Court had asked the government to confirm these allegations and after receiving a response asked chairman PEMRA to prove these allegations after which chairman PEMRA denied the charges and also apologised in writing. It is interesting to note that all these allegations have been raised in past and categorically denied with evidence and a clarification. Aman Ki Asha has been praised by Imran Khan in Parliament. Regarding Indian funding, why would RAW want Pakistan to want peace with India? Jang Group would also like to put on record that Aman Ki Asha and Zara Sochiye (education effort) was started after consultation and feedback of senior most members of the Armed Forces. Aman Ki Asha is an independent project conceived by Jang Group to promote peace with India while respecting our core interests.

Zara Sochieye education campaign has been declared openly and its sources of funding (majority of which is funded by Jang Group related companies) have also been shared and its accounts audited by Price Waterhouse Coopers. The campaign to promote education reform was appreciated by all political parties and education related NGOs including scores of PTI representatives. All editorial control and project conception was done by MKRF, local NGO affiliated with founder of Jang Group. Zara Sochieye campaign was aired on PTV, and four regional channels and 4 radio stations apart from GEO channels.

Imran Khan seems to be alluding to foreign funding as an evil. One can ask him if PTI government itself in KP accepts 100s of millions of dollars’ worth of aid from US and UK governments. Recent polio campaign was also funded from international sources and PTI itself is funded in part by US, UK, Indian citizens. Most of these funds are used for good purposes and have done a lot of social good. Imran Khan also in previous interview suggested GEO has taken foreign funding and in return maybe doing campaigning against peace negotiations with the Taliban and Government of Pakistan. Imran Khan should note that GEO has done several transmission called Aman Kay Liye Kardalo where Jang Group and GEO have openly been supporting negotiation to operation as a policy.

Allegation 4: Group aired Voice of America from a fund for supporting democracy.

GEO Response 4: Again Khan seems to be alluding to American influence.

Geo is a part of the Jang Group of Publications, Pakistan’s media powerhouse with a proud history. Geo has no connection with the USA, either financial or political. Geo had sold air time to the Voice of America under a transparent commercial contract which total value was less than 3%-5% of its revenue at any given time. GEO made sure that the VOA logo is on screen throughout its broadcast. A disclaimer stipulates that the views expressed in the broadcast are not GEO’s. There was no attempt to camouflage the VOA broadcast and its contract was given to PEMRA also. GEO’s senior management also asked General Musharraf and General Shuja Pasha if they had any problem with us airing the programme and they both said no at the time. However GEO decided on its own to stop airing the programme when drone attacks frequency increased in Pakistan and has not aired the programme for over 3 years. VOA programme had aired on PTV, Express and Aaj TV but surprisingly Imran Khan has not suspected them of any wrongdoing.

It should be noted that GEO has aired (Fahrenheit 9/11, bush’s Brain, Loose Change, Cartoons about Bush, Obama, and frequently makes fun of American presidents and leadership in Hum Sub Umeed Se Hein. At the same time it has also educated viewers about the strengths of the US democratic traditions by covering the US elections, dubbing in Urdu the presidential debates and confirmation hearings. This is in line with our policy of learning from best practices.

Geo has been critical of the drone attacks, questioned US policies in Iraq and Afghanistan and exposed excesses like those taking place in Guantanamo and Abu Gharaib. In Khuda Ke Liye, released by GEO Films, American torture techniques and atrocities were openly shown and debated in a dramatic fashion. Late Ambassador Holbrooke, who was known for his abrasive side, in his stiff unemotional tone scolded the GEO reporter once on his trip to Pakistan. After telling the reporters how much USA is doing for Pakistan, Holbrooke looked towards GEO reporter and said, “US has given half of the support pledged by (the world). Please make sure that GEO reports that! GEO has reported a lot of anti-US stuff. Now you should tell the truth to the people of Pakistan that US is on your side”. In Wikileaks it was revealed that US Embassy has written a cable to Washington saying GEO is working against the interests of the USA. It complained that Hamid Mir had done a programme exposing that Blackwater was in Islamabad among other things.

We would like to ask Imran Khan why he doesn’t ask owners of a channel that aired in India, which earns a lot of money. It is pertinent to mention that when no Pakistani TV channel is allowed to be aired in India, then how come that particular group manages to run its transmissions there. The particular TV channel and its anchorperson also tried to label us traitors by terming a genuine investigative story on Ajmal Kasab as propaganda. We stand by our story and believe that the truth, no matter how bitter, is more patriotic than a lie, no matter how sweet.

Another competitor who was in smoking business makes most of its money from business partnerships which are with American and Indian companies. Similarly they have an agreement with an American media outlet, whereby they provide a foreign newspaper along with their daily newspaper, which is owned by Jews, with their own local newspaper. Will Khan ask why Shireen Mazari will never ask them any questions? Will she tell Khan that three mainstream news channels bureaus in Washington DC were paid by US State Department funds and GEO News is the only one that funds its own bureau in Washington DC, NY and London.

We would like to clarify here that we are not against any such business partnerships as long as they are legal and transparent but are mentioning this only to underline double standards. We request our viewers and readers to ask why is that you will not see a single conspiracy theory about these other media groups in social media but only bashing of one media group? What has GEO and Jang Group been doing that it gets punished for? Zara Sochieye.

Lastly and sadly we had approached Imran Khan through Asad Umar and Jehangir Tareen in writing to please arrange a meeting with Imran Khan. After this couldn’t be done and Khan was still attacking GEO we gave the following offer on 20th February 2014-

“Kindly please form a committee that will investigate the accusations against us, please give it a 30 days deadline, and let the committee review all the contents and they can ask us any questions or hear our point of view as well and then if it feels we are guiltily we will give you an hour of our prime in which PTI can make its findings shard with our audiences.

Our request would be that that committee contains only neutral people and not people have a known biased against us.You need to know that these allegations are serious and personal for us.”

But instead of confronting us with questions and evidence Shireen Mazari has convinced Imran Khan to attack us through press conferences and certain sections of the media with competing interests.

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