The following comes in, via a Facebook e-mail exchange, from Mir Ibrahim Rahman who is the CEO of Geo TV in Pakistan, a channel which has been blocked by the Pakistani government who has also begun talks with foreign governments to have the channel’s transmission blocked overseas. In his message, Mir, states that he is safe at the moment despite having received numerous death threats, his TV network along with the Jang newspaper group been victimized while senior hosts, journalists, producers and the chairman have all had their phones bugged and recorded:
I am kind of Okay. They have shut down all our channels. I can’t believe Musharraf has become what he has become. I still feel sorry for him though. I cant believe THAT more than anything else. Anyway, pray for Pakistan. It needs it. Things are a lot worse than you think, since you are probably not watching what is going on as all of Pakistan’s private news channels have been blocked for past 6 days.
Tomorrow they are going to revise the army act, which will give them powers similar to that of the infamous patriots act where they can ‘court martial’ civilians even and hold them without due process or cause for months at a time. Another nail in the coffin of our constitution. actually its only now that I have truly begun to have felt the power of and appreciated words and promises. I guess which is what our or any constitution is- when I realized what life can be without them. we normally don’t feel it. I guess, apart from some of our lawyer friends. and most of us definitely think the common man will definitely not feel it as he or she has many more important things to think about and worry about than a bunch of words written in a book 40 years ago.
But I have seen how trampling on what seems like mere words effects all of us. Those mere words (our constitution- another way to look at it, is a way of life reached by consensus, in 1973) are actually our rights- that are going down the drain. fundamental rights, article 4 and 8 (something none of us have a right too right now in Pakistan as per the emergency and PCO that was implemented 5 days ago) are not something that someone can take away or give, they are inalienable rights, and thus can only be denied to you- for a time. but you still have them even then..as they are yours.
They can pick any one of us up without being questioned, and you would have no recourse to go to ultimately, no second or even third party. they can give anyone a contract without due process and the press wont be able to bring it up, or will think three times before doing so and risk detention or their channels will be blocked. they can elect who they want, do what corruption they want and we won’t be there to check up on it or expose it, they can perform as they want and there will no feedback at least not as negative which would make them afraid to do better for their constituents. next time someone wants to steal the nations steel mill for less than 50% of the land value alone, next time the big wigs manipulate the stock market with the information they have due to being part of the state, next time their gang members hoard sugar, wheat or oil and artificially increase the price of goods for profit against the law and at the expense of the masses….next time for any of this, the media might not be around and this friends is how law (and the people that are protected by it) effects the common man.
The new PEMRA ordinance (regulatory body of media in Pakistan which believe or not was known as r.a.m.b.o once officially) states that they have the right to close down any channel for an indefinite period without giving warning or a show cause notice, and cancel the distribution through cable as well as size equipment and imprison us for 3 years. next time for any of this, the media might not be aroundand more importantly the next time a civilian government tries to take advantage of their constituents and also try to manage their stay by cooperating with another power, will they think twice about the judiciary and media letting them do it silently? Up till a month or so ago, yes, they would have thought twice and we actually might have closed that pandoras box or cycle. yes the media might not also be around to sensationalize news, to show gory pictures and present opinions as facts, but that is not the aim of the “correction” taking place here. though these are things which need a code of conduct, an internal one at that and not one that is forced on us at gun point. How many good things have been done in this world w a gun?
The point is common man will suffer more than any of us. But that is something they don’t even realize yet. And the media is not there to pass even that on to them it seems. and that is something to fight for. At the end there are arguments I remember from my philosophy classes about men being inherently evil or good. I don’t want to debate what is musharraf or isnt. what I do know for sure and can rely on is that our audiences and the citizens of pakistan, just like the rest of mankind, is definitely selfish. and they will not let anyone take away the information empowerment that they had felt for the past 5 years- and esp for which they almost didn’t have to pay for! They will want their channels back! Heres hoping that perhaps with it, they will want their inalienable rights as well!
Some of our best work has been done in the past 5 days, probably tops half of what we have done in the last 5 years of our existence. unfortunately no one can see it in Pakistan! Most of my friends and colleagues here are either calling me directly or are calling their loved ones abroad who can watch GEO in UK, USA, UAE, Canada ectonly solace is that somehow they have not been able to block us on the net yet, people are watching us on many places, on our websites.
The following are examples of media victimization due to Geo’s stance on “live and let live” (geo aur geenaydo) reporting. plus I think they think we don’t get manipulated that easy and have done some evil (read daring or exposing) stuff in the past and therefore want to make us more of an example for others.
I had been asked to send the following to a journalist before and am listing them below:
a) PEMRA and the establishment victimized jang group and geo network by having its entertainment channels also blocked with its news channel. Aag ( www.aag.tv) the nations first youth channel and GEO the nations most popular entertainment channel is also blocked along with geo super. (other entertainment channels of all groups are on!)
b) Jang press was surrounded by police 3 days ago in an attempt to stop printing of its late afternoon special edition
b-1) Two days ago Islamabad Geo bureau was surrounded by plain clothes “policemen” who were asking people where are the entrance and exists of the building as well as other mischievous questions. Our senior hosts, who are the faces of our channels, chairman and I have received written and verbal death deaths more than the usual average.
b-2) Many of our senior hosts and producers and executives have their phones bugged and recorded.
c) We have started a new service where you can SMS 4360 and text “mna” and you can get breaking news of GEO but they blocked it the same day of the emergency.
d) Advertisers have been called and pressured not to advertise with geo channels so that financial pressure is used to influence us
e) Even international locations wherever we have critical presence are being pushed to look into ways how GEO’s transmission there can be disturbed and put off.
f) The new PEMRA ordinance also has been designed to tackle popular social satire programs, like Hum Sub Umeed Say Hain, and claims that we cant make fun of legislative, executive body members as well as security institutions and armed forces (Civil society members, including artists, lawyers, students, teachers and media professionals can continue to be ridiculed though as they are now)
g) Geo super which has the exclusive rights to India Pak Series was banned by perma and cable operators were not allowed to pass on the signals to million of satellite viewers. Geo Super had also purchased air time to air the series on terrestrial state network ( PTV) and that too was not aired despite written commitments!
h) This meant that the entire country (satellite homes through super and ptv thorough terrestrial) was deprived of their favorite sport during such a anxious times and also deprived the state broadcaster of incremental revenue from geo
i) This was done with PEMRA as both PEMRA and PTV fall under the information ministry and the government wants to cripple geo through financial pressure and losses and once again has used ptv. Similarly PTV uses PEMRA as well to fight of its private competitors.
k) It is estimated that 80 crores can be lost by geo super (12 million dollars, and this doesn’t count for how much already has been lost on the rest of the network as its been off air for 6 days) on the India pak cricket series alone. This loss threatens the very existence of the only sports channel in Pakistan and all that it had been doing for sports development in the country. www.geosuper.tv
l) There is other stuff as well which should probably not be put in writing at this point.