Not long ago Pakistani media labeled as Free and vibrant perhaps feckless and vindictive are the best descriptors today.
It all started when GEO Tv’s famous anchor Hamid Mir was attacked in Karachi and GEO newsroom in no time threw blame on Pakistan’s premier spy agency and defamed its chief without investigation.
They aired Gen. Zaheer uddin Islam’s footage for about 8 hours trying to build an opinion on the basis of Hamid Mir’s ‘concerns’ resulting countrywide public anger that subsequently provided an opportunity to other private channels to prepare a strong case on GEO’s alleged offenses. Although attack on Mir was condemnable but GEO totally miscalculated the moment and invited further criticism over its credibility.
It was not easy for GEO to deal with different Tv channels, Army, Pemra, political parties and the Public on this particular issue especially when country’s environment is democratic with less or no Army interference in Government matters.
After the recent scandal regarding the ISI, Geo Television Network once again in trouble over a morning show, ‘Utho Jago Pakistan’.
The show, hosted by Dr. Shaista Lodhi, has been alleged to blaspheme against the Prophet (PBUH)’s family. An episode from May 14th played “Ali Kay Sath Hai Zahra Ki Shadi”, a manqabat originally sang by Qawaal Amjad Sabri, in the background of a clip showing the marriage ceremony of one of Pakistan’s most controversial actresses Veena Malik.
Why GEO falling into trouble again and again is a point to ponder. Is it because of the free hand given to the management without checks and balances or is it really a conspiracy as claimed by the media group.
Offenses committed by GEO in past were ignored by the then President General Pervez Musharraf as he was in a weak position to control irresponsible yet agenda based reporting of the group.
Although whenever he tried to tighten the noose of untamed channels he was blackmailed and maligned. Benazir Murder, Lal Masjid case reporting, The Chief Justice episode, Akber Bugti Murder and the case of missing persons were the issues Geo portrayed with the intent of maligning ex-President.
Not to mention how GEO team spotted Ajmal Kassab’s home in Punjab right after the 26/11 attack in Mumbai. This was the day that left Pakistanis in shock and grief but Geo was proudly announcing to be the first News channel reaching alleged attacker’s home and investigating the family about Kassabs whereabouts which was later aired and heavily propagated on Indian channels that made a mockery of Pakistan. Such cases have discredited the image of GEO Tv.
Hamid Mir on the other hand constantly indulged in maligning Pakistan’s security agencies and the Army in general keeping national interest aside.
Now the situation is getting worse for the GEO to an extent that a Fatwa has been issued against the channel by the Sunni Ittehad Council calling it ‘Haraam’ to watch Geo. Countrywide protests being held against GEO, Cable operators association considering to halt tv channel’s transmission, rival media groups and anchors are also on fire against Geo.
It would be interesting to see how Pakistan’s largest media group manage to get out of trouble although never in the history GEO Tv Network seen apologizing and defending themselves on numerous allegations.
Once a dominating media group now seems to be completely isolated in such a way that it’s one time associate, PTI chief, Imran Khan who collected funds in account of Shaukat Khanum Cancer hospital and for his election campaign with the collaboration of GEO Tv network now became its most vocal critique. Mubasher Luqman of ARY News and Zaid Hamid the defense analyst are strongly pursuing case against Geo Group however PML N Government, MQM, PPP and JI playing their cards responsibly and not indulging in any sort of conflict with the Group.
Imran Khan’s move came to me as a surprise but reminded me of how maliciously Geo and its anchor Hamid Mir used to put forward their agendas in talks shows and in the News bulletins.
Its hightime for other media groups and Geo Tv in particular to implement accountability rules and set up media commission with committee/ board to monitor program content as Success on any major scale requires one to accept responsibility which is clearly missing in Geo’s case.