Another blatant lie of Asad Kharal, ARY | Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Pakistan Press Foundation

Another blatant lie of Asad Kharal, ARY

Pakistan Press Foundation

UK media regulator rules in favour of Kashmir affairs minister

LONDON: Britain’s media regulator, Ofcom, has established that Pakistan’s Minister for Kashmir Affairs Chaudhry Barjees Tahir was unfairly and unjustly treated by the ARY News through malicious and false allegations in one of its shows called Kab Tak.

The media regulator made the ruling while acting upon a complaint made by Sakib Barjees, son of Barjees Tahir, in reference to the show aired on January 26, 2016 in Pakistan as well as in the UK.

The programme featured a discussion about alleged corruption amongst government-appointed land agents who keep registers of land (or Patwaris) in the Nankana district of Lahore in Pakistan and their links to government ministers from the PML-N.

During the discussion, the programme’s reporter, Asad Kharal, made a number of comments about Mr Barjees and accused him of being involved in fraud.During this discussion, the reporter said that a man called Ashraf Bhatti, whom he described as “like a jeweller of [the] Revenue Department”, had “been appointed by Barjees Tahir.” The reporter also said, “He [Mr Bhatti] is known as a mama who goes to police stations and Patwaris and collects monthly amounts from them. We were told by people that money up to Rs500,000 is collected by him”.

Barjees Tahir’s son Sakib Barjees, who studied and lived in London for nearly a decade, complained to the Ofcom that his father, Chaudhry Barjees, was treated unjustly or unfairly in the programme as broadcast because the programme alleged falsely that Mr Barjees was “taking illegal money from land registry officers” and that he was not given an appropriate and timely opportunity to respond to this allegation.

After an investigation spread over seven months, the Ofcom found that the ARY did not take reasonable care to satisfy itself that material facts were not presented or omitted in a way that resulted in unfairness to Chaudhry Barjees.

The reporter alleged that the government ministers from the PML-N were in league with corrupt land agents and condoned their corruption. He said that the land agents received large financial rewards as a result of their corruption. He named various people from the Nankana district whom he indicated were either corrupt land agents, middlemen who forced the land agents to give them a cut of their illicit gains, or ministers on whose behalf these middlemen were working.

The ARY News responded that the programme makers had evidence for the claims made in the programme; notably “a government letter regarding the appointment of Patwaris… [and] recovered agricultural income tax documents relating to the Nankana district which is part of Mr Barjees’ constituency”. The broadcaster said that these documents showed the amounts which had been paid to the Patwaris and that this was “evidence of the corruption” by the land agents.

The Ofcom ruled that the “evidence” presented on the show lacked credibility and could not be taken as credible evidence linking the minister with corruption.

It said that the reporter clearly tried to establish that Mr Tahir used another person to make money but there was no evidence that the minister actually did so. It said that the freedom of expression “comes with responsibility and an obligation on broadcasters to comply with the code and to avoid unjust or unfair treatment of individuals and organisations in programmes”.

“Taking all of the above into account, Ofcom considered therefore that, in the particular circumstances of this case, the broadcaster did not take reasonable care to satisfy itself that material facts had not been presented, disregarded or omitted in the programme in a way that was unfair to Chaudhry Barjees; and, it had failed to provide him with an appropriate and timely opportunity to respond to the significant allegations made about him. For these reasons, Ofcom found that Chaudhry Barjees was treated unfairly in the programme as broadcast.”

Sakib Barjees commented: “I am glad that my father has been vindicated in resounding terms. My father is a man of honour and has never been involved in corruption. The programme was aimed to damage my father for political gains but Britain’s media regulator has clearly established that Barjees Tahir was unfairly treated and no material evidence about his alleged corruption was produced during the legal inquiry launched by the Ofcom. We reserve the right to pursue this matter further in various courts to seek remedy and justice.”

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