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Sunday, November 18, 2007

Media Watch: The First Challenge For the Caretaker Government of Mian Mohammed Soomro

At 1am Pakistani standard time Geo and ARY cease to broadcast News and Current Affairs Programmes.

I started monitoring Geo at 1330 local time (2330 PST). Anchor Shahid Masood was announcing the end of Geo transmissions from Dubai for worldwide viewers. (They were already off air in Pakistan.)

He brought on anchors and guests on the news programmes. And as is his penchant, he asked each guest about why they think Geo was being meted this treatment.

Anchor Hamid Mir said he senses the writing on the wall some 2 ½ years ago when the Musharraf Administration started exerting pressures on the ‘management’. At first the pressures were subtle and with time they grew more direct. Advertisements were reduced and cut off from the Group.

(Geo is a privately owned company by the Jang Group founded by patriarch Mir Khalil ur Rehman and now run by his sons. Mir Shakil ur Rehman heads the Jang Group of companies. The Geo division is run by his 28 year old son Mir Ibrahim Rehman.)

The last straw came when the Administration wanted the Jang Group to give an “undertaking”

When Dr. Shahid Masood probed about the salient points of this undertaking Hamid Mir mentioned the following:

  • Drop Shahid Masood’s Meray Mutabiq
  • Drop Hamid Mir’s Capital Talk
  • Fire journalist Anwar Abbasi
  • Submit News and Current Affairs Programming prior to airing

Hamid Mir also spoke of an incident in New Delhi in 2005 when he inquired from the Minister of Information why Geo TV was banned in India. At first the minister tried to dodge the question but Hamid persisted saying it is seen by Indian expats in Dubai and they sent Geo positive feedbacks, why were mainland Indians denied acces to Geo TV.

At his persistence, the Minister finally said that Geo was considered a 'tool' of Pakistani Government trying to brainwash Indians. And then Hamid added at the irony that Geo TV is considered ant-government by Pakistani Administration and pro-government by the Indian Administration!

Syed Talat Hussain of Aaj TV said: Life goes on. There will be less “truth” visible and heard tomorrow.

Nasir Baig Chughtai, Senior News Analyst and the person I took to task once for the plethora of mostly insignificant news guised as Breaking News offered a somber view.

Lt. Gen Talat Masood, an analyst said this was a “sign of government weakness.”

Retired Justice Saeed uz Zaman Siddiqui and British MP M Sarwar offered their shock at the Geo News becoming news.

Lahore housewife Sunbul Raza broke down and had both the anchors in tears lamenting the demise of Geo News.

Former PM Nawaz Sharif said the anchor’s plight reminded him of his days in Attock jail when he used to ask himself, “What have I done? Am I a hijacker? Am I a traitor?”

Any mention of his negotiations with the Government for his release after trial and conviction and subsequent internment in Saudi Arabia was not hinted at.

Kaukab Farshori of VOA read from the State Department statement: “We’re troubled by the expansion of restrictions on the media.”

Only towards the end of this programme at five minutes to one, Dr. Shahid Masood mentioned the fact that the channel would remain on air but without any News or Current Affairs Programming.


While this is a sad chapter in manipulations and intervention by the government encroaching on fundamental rights – rights which are suspended under the Emergency – this should be deplored and protested by freedom lovers everywhere.

An independent fourth estate is the blood running in the vessels of the Judiciary, the Legislature and the Executive.

The one thing that is not clear at this time is the role of the caretaker government in this. Is it a party to these shenanigans? And if not, can it step in and right the wrong?

Reversing this decision by the Caretaker government of Mian Mohammed Soomro will be seen as a litmus test of its neutrality.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

So sad that Geo Tv has been shut down but we can expaect anything frm this Musharraf. I really dislike him. Well read abt Mian Mohammad Soomro at:

Also have a look at a post at geo,Aaj and Aryone world TV at:

November 18, 2007 11:56 PM  

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