Team formed to disparage newsmen -Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Paksitan Press Foundtion

Team formed to disparage newsmen

Shakeel Anjum

ISLAMABAD: The government has constituted a four-member team, headed by the deputy chief of a spying agency, to launch a vilification campaign against journalists on its hit list and dissenting voices within the ruling PPP.

Sources in the Interior Ministry confided to The News on Friday the cell, entrusted with the task of mudslinging, had been provided a huge fund worth Rs500 million–the missing amount of the Intelligence Bureau.

Led by Deputy Chief of Intelligence Bureau (IB) Riaz Shaikh, the team’s members include Dr Qayyum Soomro; DIG (Security), Islamabad, Inayatullah Farooq; and a lady parliamentarian.

Although Soomro and Sheikh denied the formation of such a body, Farooq could not be reached for comments despite hectic efforts by this correspondent. But independent sources confirmed the committee was already functioning as per the mandate given to it by a leading light of the present government.

The team has reportedly been entrusted with slandering the journalists filing stories that caused the rulers embarrassment. In a smart move, the sources alleged “friendly and saleable journalists” were being used to target those refusing to fall in line with the government’s dictates.

Ansar Abbasi (Editor Investigation of The News) and Rauf Klasra (Special Correspondent of The News) are the immediate targets of the committee, which has also been asked to go after PPP leader Naheed Khan, Senator Safdar Abbasi and some prominent workers demanding an impartial investigation of Benazir Bhutto’s assassination.

The sources revealed the team, involved in a recent smear drive against Ansar Abbasi, would soon resort to an “all-out crackdown” on defiant newsmen. “It may start methodically in the near future,” they added.

Dr Qayyum Soomro, when contacted for comments, spurned the report as totally baseless and insisted no team had been constituted to bring anyone into disrepute. He alleged his political opponents were spreading such news to further their vested interests and such things always occurred in political regimes.

“There is no team constituted led by IB Deputy Chief Riaz Shaikh,” Dr Soomro reiterated, repudiating the claim that 500 million rupees had been given to the cell for launching the defamation campaign.

Deputy Director Intelligence Bureau Riaz Sheikh said he was completely unaware of any team formed to disparage media professionals or politicians. Instead, he believed a drive had been initiated to malign him. “Please, ask those who have informed you of this,” he remarked, saying he had nothing to do with the so-called team.

DIG (Security) Inayatullah Farooq could not be contacted despite repeated attempts by this newspaper.

Source: Dawn

Date:1/17/2009