PBA suspends Geo on basis of what minister never said
ISLAMABAD: After a shameful defeat in competing with Pakistan’s most popular and number one channel — Geo — through competence, hard work, intelligence and fair means, the Pakistan Broadcasters Association (PBA) on Friday suspended Geo’s membership on the basis of an alleged statement of Defence Minister Khawaja Asif which he never gave.
In their unofficial interactions, some top executives of TV channels admit that Geo captured more than half of the total market share and defeating it through competition was almost impossible, so the only way to capture some business was to get it closed through the support of certain elements having particular agenda on the basis of any true or false allegation. Daily Dawn has termed this mentality that of ‘vultures’.
As a matter of fact, in his June 11 interview, Defence Minister Khawaja Asif never said he had seen evidence against Geo of being anti-state.Though the programme anchor twice asked Khawaja Asif if he had checked the evidence before forwarding the application to Pemra, he just admitted to have forwarded the application but never said he had seen evidence that Geo was anti-state.
Khawaja Asif said the same even earlier and this time added that he had forwarded the application with the consent of the prime minister. At one time when the anchor asked Khawaja Asif if he had accused Geo of being anti-state, he instead of endorsing the allegation referred to the contents aired saying, “When you will air such content (referring to transmission on Hamid Mir) on TV” and then in the very next breath, he said: “This allegation can be challenged by Geo if a wrong allegation is leveled. I have leveled allegation by considering it correct.”
Interestingly, Khawaja Asif further explained his understanding of anti-state in a way that he termed many channels anti-state. He said if channels will air any content which is against the security and defence of the country like…different ambassadors have asked him what Pakistani TV channels were showing and exposing the exact location of security forces during the Karachi airport operation was wrong.
By pointing at the indecent coverage by channels of the attack on Karachi airport, Khawaja Asif said in categorical words: “This is being anti-state and enmity to the state.” It is worth mentioning here that it was not Geo but other channels like Express News, ARY, Dunya News which ran wrong transmissions during the Karachi airport attack.
Dunya News even broke the story that planes had been highjacked. On Friday, Pemra’s Council of Complaints (CoC) recommended a fine of Rs0.5 million on these channels not including Geo. So basically Khawaja Asif never said that he had seen evidence against Geo of being anti-state but said in categorical words that those channels which exposed the location of security forces during the Karachi operation or aired wrong news were anti-state (enemy of Pakistan) and a list of such channels was fined by Pemra CoC on Friday.
However, the anchorperson of the programme again asked Khawaja Asif whether running such transmission proves that some channel is anti-state, the defence minister, instead of answering the question, asked the anchorperson what would he say if someone endangers the security of some state institutions or their officials (clearly pointing at the terrible coverage of Karachi airport attack by some channels). The anchor once again asked how this proves that one has a history of being anti-state, Khawaja Asif said that they had the opportunity to contest the allegation.
Khawaja Asif never said that there are evidence against Geo of being anti-state, rather at this point he said, “If there is no truthfulness in my allegations, they (Geo) can contest it. If I have the right to level allegation, it is their right to contest these allegations. Pemra should decide independently.”
Khawaja Asif said that Geo had a point of view and he may or may not agree with it. He said Geo should not clash with these institutions as they are fighting. When Khawaja Asif was asked if he had seen evidence against Geo (most importantly, anchorperson doesn’t ask about evidence with regard to the anti-state allegation), the defence minister did not reply and said he had given an application in written and did not sign any blank paper without even mentioning any proof, etc. The anchor for the fifth time asked: “So you sent the application after seeing all evidence (the anchorperson again does not mention the anti-state allegation and simply asked about checking evidences),” Khawaja Asif again did not discuss any evidence related thing and simply said, “I take full responsibility of the application sent by me.”
Khawaja Asif said if there was anything against his conscience, he will step down. (On basis of this, the TV channel which conducted this interview ran tickers that “if allegations against Geo are not proved he will resign” whereas Khawaja Asif never said anything even near to this. Later, Khawaja Asif wrote on his personal Twitter account that tickers are wrongly attributing things to him and the people should watch his complete interview.
His exact tweet posted at 2157 hrs on July 11, 2014 simply less than two after his interview was telecast is; “Before commenting please watch the complete program … Don’t go with what the tickers are claiming on my behalf 🙂 thnx”). Khawaja Asif said that he did not want ban on any channel and he will always fight for the independence of the media till the end but will not allow wrongdoing. Khawaja Asif asked the anchorperson not to provoke him to reveal details about the business of owners of his channel.
Khawaja Asif’s main point during the interview was, “It is my duty and my portfolio also demands that I defend the departments functioning under my ministry and if I can’t fulfill this duty, I must separate myself from this ministry. It is my duty to protect my institutions, which are rather institutions of this country.”
It is apparent that wrong tickers were aired under a well-planned strategy and the PBA used it despite the fact that Khawaja Asif had clarified the same through his confirmed Twitter account. Talking to The News, Khawaja Asif said that during his interview, he said the veracity of allegations against Geo leveled in the Ministry of Defence application could only be judged by the Pemra or by courts. He said he will not comment any more as the issue should be decided by courts.
It is crucially important here that while giving its decision, Pemra did not even consider part of the application containing the anti-state allegation as there was no evidence on that count whatsoever. Geo has tried many times on its own to get any evidence pertaining to this allegation but no evidence was ever provided against the Pakistan’s most popular TV channel.
It was strange that an emergency meeting of the PBA was called and the agenda of the meeting did not include the issue of Geo or Khawaja Asif’s statement. However, it was included during the meeting later with the approval of the chair though it could not have been done in this way. If this was to be discussed, this was a very important issue and must have been the part of the written agenda given to members before the meeting. The PBA decided without going through what Khawaja Asif had actually said and gave a decision without any probe and it was obvious that it was preplanned. Cases on this count are still pending with courts and the PBA doesn’t even wait for the court’s decisions.
The PBA is dominated by those channels which are not part of the old lot but are new entrants in the world of media. All the local and international bodies of journalists, editors and publishers except the PBA stood by Geo. The PBA is an odd man out to do whatever it can against Geo. A Geo spokesman said they are immediately going to court against the PBA’s decision.