Civil society, journalists vow to thwart designs against Geo
KARACHI: Journalist bodies and civil society organisations on Wednesday expressed solidarity with Geo TV and vowed to resist any move to shut down the TV channel.
They also expressed concerns at the divisions among the media houses that have weakened the movement for the freedom of the Press and the freedom of expression.The Joint Action Committee, a consortium of leading civil society organisations, expressed serious concern over the clampdown on the Jang Group and vowed to start a campaign against the “undemocratic forces” that are bent upon squashing the freedom of expression in the country.
At the consultation meeting held at the office of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan’s (HRCP) on Wednesday, the representatives of several NGOs, human rights activists, labour leaders and journalists also decided to visit the Geo News office on Thursday (today) to show solidarity with its employees.
The participants chalked out plans to start a protest movement against the “obscurantist forces” in order to save the “the hard won rights for the media and civil society by years of struggle, which has suddenly come under threat as a result of a conspiratorial war between the media groups.”
“It’s not about any particular media house but the larger interest of the society that has brought us here today,” said Mehnaz Rehman, executive director of Aurat Foundation, who presided over the meeting.
Rehman said that ‘certain forces’ are trying to exploit the opportunity to set a ‘red line’ for the media and the civil society, which needs to be urgently resisted. She recommended that the civil society should start a token hunger strike and spread the word internationally.
Speaking on the occasion, Farhat Parveen, executive director of Now Communities, said that owing to charges of blasphemy, the employees of Jang and Geo group and their families were threatened, so the civil society should write to the law enforcement agencies and urge them to provide security to the employees.
The speakers also urged the journalist’s fraternity to avoid the continuing war of words and bring some insanity in the discourse before it was too late.“The journalists who are talking about closing one media group do not realise that in the long run they will also be targeted, its not about Geo or Jang but the larger struggle of press freedom, which has always been under threat from certain forces,” said Tauseef Ur Rehman, chairman of Mass Communication Department, Federal Urdu University.
However, some of the participants were of the view that the members of the civil society should visit various media houses in the country and ask them to end what seemed like an “endless warfare.”
Rights activist Akhtar Baloch said that the students of mass communication should mobilise by signing of petitions and other university activities, so that they understand the importance of press freedom and raise their voice against the state’s conspiracy to ban the freedom of expression.
Lauding the mainstream political parties like the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) and Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), who chose not to jump on the bandwagon of criticising the Jang Group, the speakers said that they should also be consulted and their views regarding the resistance movement included in the plan of action.
The speakers also recommended that a team should be employed to counter the wave of fanatic hatred being preached in the social media against Geo and Jang Group.“I think the civil society should come forward with ideas to counter the senseless campaign of hate being run by various people in the social media,” said Mir Zulfiqar Ali, Director Programs Now Communities.
“People who have a sense of history of Pakistan and those who know from where such strings are pulled should play their part to educate the masses about the issues of press freedom and their significance.”
Later, the HRCP held a meeting with journalists. The meeting was chaired by Resident Director Aurat Foundation Mehnaz Rehman.HRCP Vice Chairman Asad Iqbal Butt, Department of Mass Communication, Federal Urdu University, Chairman Dr Tauseef Ahmed Khan, Geo News Karachi Bureau chief Faisal Aziz Khan, heads of various organisations and journalists attended the meeting.
On the occasion, Asad Iqbal Butt said banning of Geo will not be tolerated at all. Terming it a conspiracy to snatch the employment of workers, he said it will not succeed. Mehnaz Rehman said the civil society and human rights organisations stand by Geo at this critical time. The household of a middle-class journalist survives on his hard-earned salary, she added.
Faisal Aziz Khan appreciated the civil society for its efforts in favour of the Geo Network while members of the HRCP demanded the government to make efforts for putting an end to the current hostile situation so that attacks on the freedom of the media may be avoided.
Karachi News Desk adds: Meanwhile, members of the Freedom of Press Committee, comprising eight senior members of the delegation of Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) and Karachi Union of Journalists (KUJ), visited the office of Geo TV to express solidarity with the Geo TV network.
The members of the committee were senior Dawn journalist Habib Khan Ghori, Editor of Express newspaper Tahir Najmi, Secretary-General of PFUJ Amin Yousuf, KUJ President GM Jamali, General-Secretary Wajid Raza Ispahani, senior journalist Shahid Hussain and controller of Metro TV Safdar Ali.
The members of the committee met at the Geo News office the Controller of News, Ansar Naqvi, Director of Assignment Zahid Hussain, and Bureau Chief of Geo News, Karachi, Faisal Aziz Khan.
During the meeting, PFUJ Secretary-General Amin Yousuf expressed the determination that the journalist fraternity of the whole country was united, and that workers would not be left alone in the fight between organisations. A conspiracy is being hatched to close all the organisations under the pretext of Jang and Geo News.
Member of the Freedom of Press Committee and the KUJ, senior journalist Shahid Hussain said that the fraternity of journalists is one and workers would not be left alone in the fight between organisations.
The Editor of Express newspaper, Tahir Najmi, said that the need of the hour is to join hands and stand by each other. He said that action should be taken against the law-breaking cable operators.
The senior journalists said on the occasion that various characters were involved in this game against Geo and Jang Group. This is the time when all of us have to stand united. Earlier, the delegation considered the future course of action at the office of the Karachi Union of Journalists.
Our Peshawar Bureau adds: Journalists in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provincial capital on Wednesday expressed solidarity with the workers of Geo Television network and condemned the off-airing of its transmission.
The senior journalists held a meeting on the call of the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists with Shamim Shahid in the chair.The participants of the meeting condemned the attitude of some anchorpersons, who had been endangering the lives of workers of Geo and Jang group through their controversial shows.
They said cases would be filed against such anchorpersons and owners of these groups if anything happened to the workers of the Geo/Jang Group.The participants of the meeting condemned the off airing of Geo and termed it unlawful and an attack on the press freedom.
They expressed the resolve to resist any unlawful decision to ban Geo as that would be tantamount to financial murder of a large number of workers associated with the Jang Media Group.