Government calls Dawn’s version misrepresentation
ISLAMABAD- An official spokesman condemned the attempt by the Dawn group of newspapers to misrepresent the visit by an inspection team, comprising a group of army officers’ on behalf of the KESC, to the premises of the newspaper in Karachi on Sept 27, as an action allegedly taken to intimidate the newspaper.
The spokesman said: “There is absolutely no connection whatsoever between the inspection visit and the government’s policy to facilitate and support the free and independent press of Pakistan.” “As is well-known,” the spokesman said, “there is large-scale, widespread theft of electricity in Karachi. “Under the leadership of an able and dedicated army officer, the KESC staff, with the support of army personnel are trying to ensure that domestic/commercial/industrial users of electricity pay charges exactly according to the consumption of power. “As is already acknowledged, the inspection team of army officers conducted themselves with complete courtesy and discipline during their visit to Dawn,” the spokesman said.
Referring to the fact that similar inspection visits had been made by similar groups of army officers and KESC officials to the offices of other leading independent newspapers, as well as to government departments, in recent weeks, the spokesman said that none of the other newspapers had made such a baseless allegation. “The reason for this is clear. The government, led by Chief Executive Gen Pervez Musharraf has done more to strengthen and facilitate freedom of the press in Pakistan in the past 11 months than perhaps any other civil or military government in the past few decades,” the spokesman said.
In this case, however, there appears to be a deliberate intent to raise a hue and cry so as to malign the government. Taking note of the several statements issued on this subject in the past 24 hours by various organizations, groups and individuals both at home and overseas, the spokesman said: “There is no cause for concern whatsoever. The willful act of misinforming readers and misleading public opinion is a good example of how the freedom of the press is quite frequently refused by some for purposes of distortion, defamation and disinformation.”
The spokesman said the Dawn report about this event published in the newspaper on Sept 28, tried to concoct an imaginary pattern of deliberate actions by the government against Dawn. The report claimed that the information minister and the information secretary had earlier sent “legal notices” to Dawn.
This factually incorrect claim had been picked up by others, including Pakistan journalists based in the USA, and repeated in their own statements, he said. “Whereas the fact is that the communication jointly addressed by the information minister and the information secretary to Dawn on Sept 19, 2000, is a simple letter requesting that a clarification/contradiction be published by Dawn within seven days of the receipt of the letter to show that earlier reports in the same newspaper by Shaheen Sehbai regarding the Chief Executive’s visit to New York were incorrect, malicious and defamatory.”
The spokesman said the letter of Sept 19 clearly indicated that if the clarification was not published within several days, only then will actual legal action be considered. “It is relevant to note that this letter of Sept 19, 2000, from the information minister and the information secretary was sent only after the initial failure of Dawn to publish an even earlier request for a contradiction addressed to it on Sept 13, 2000.”
The spokesman said a newspaper that claimed to be a “leading” newspaper had thus violated “the basic ethics of journalism by failing to publish two separate requests for contradictions within the space of fourteen days. “The information minister and the information secretary will be taking legal advice to proceed further in this matter. This legal process has no bearing at all on the policy and practices of the government to continue facilitating freedom of the press. “The Daton report also makes the misleading claim that the government is pursuing a new press strategy by, for example, ‘watering-down’ a proposed freedom of information law. Nothing can be further from the truth. No previous government in Pakistan’s history has so actively encouraged so frank and free a debate on the freedom of information law as has been done in the past 30 days. This debate has been broadcast on radio and TV and reported widely in the press. In any case as the law is still in a draft stage there is no question of ‘watering-down’.”
The spokesman expressed complete confidence that “this futile attempt to malign the government would be exposed by the uninterrupted continuity of the freedom of the press in Pakistan in the future just as the free press has grown and flourished to an unprecedented level onwards of Oct 12, 1999.