What AI revealed was earlier censored by Jang Group
ISLAMABAD: The Jang Group was not publishing my stories for the last many days giving full details with evidence that Pakistan Army officials working for the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) were directly, and in some cases indirectly, contacting cable operators and pressurising them to put the Geo News and other Geo channels off air without waiting for the decision of the constitutional governmentNow my exclusive stories are wasted, as an independent and credible international body, Amnesty International has come up with its report disclosing most of these facts.
I always wondered as to why Geo and Jang Group was not carrying my stories about ISI’s role in challenging the writ of the government and in shutting down Geo TV despite the fact that Geo channels were being blacked out across the country and Group was being badly pressed — one of the worst attacks on freedom of expression and independence of media following General Musharraf’s November 2007 Geo-specific censorship during which Geo News remained off air for 72 days.
This has been a basic principle across the world that intelligence agencies work under cover. But, during course of our investigative journalism, we easily tracked down the ISI networks, which, instead of working to ensure national security, were busy taming street cable operators to disturb Geo channels, and later close them. They were even found involved in incidents of kidnapping and torture, and evidence of such acts are present. Severe threats were being hurled at cable operators and others concerned to ensure that Geo remains blocked. All these facts were being reported but Jang Group’s top editorial management remained hell bent not to publish factual stories being filed with evidence and versions.
While Amnesty report came on scene on May 30, the investigative reporting to this fact that media is being badly censored and pressurised in Pakistan by the powerful institution of ISI were being filed since April 30. However, the Group continued to censor the stories in the name of national interest, while the Constitution, liberty of citizens, basic human rights, right of access to information, right to freedom of expression and independence of media were being compromised.
Not only involvement of the ISI officials in the instances of controlling cable operators, in some cases regular army officers, came on scene but also army vehicles were used to pressure the officials of the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra), the regulatory body of electronic media.
It didn’t stop here. Two of Pemra private members, who are active against Geo, were in constant contact with intelligence agency officers. PPP leaders say that lawyer of ISI Babar Awan got Israr Abbasi inducted as member Pemra during the PPP government and now he remains in touch with the intelligence agency. He himself admitted that his initial so-called 13-pages fact finding report was prepared by officials of the intelligence agency.
Any highest level probe can check call records of these members, cable operators and officials to verify some of the facts. However, most the stories filed were stopped or edited in a way that name of the ISI was deleted or edited and people remain deprived of the facts.
Even the federal government was repeatedly asked to take action against officials of the intelligence agency and stop them from interacting with the cable operators or Pemra officials directly, as, in this way, writ of the government was being challenged. However, a weak prime minister and a weak government remained unmoved and silent and never initiated any action against the ISI officers or Pemra officers involved, and thus compromised its own writ. In latest events government officials are being attacked and tortured. A senior federal minister himself told this correspondent that a senior government official was kidnapped and later badly tortured. However, so far no action has been taken and despite having a democratically elected heavy mandated government, Pakistani citizens and media is being harassed by a state institution, and there is no one to help.