Thursday, April 24, 2014

Commission Must Investigate Hamid Mir's Ties to Spies & Militants

Attempt on Hamid Mir's life has rightly drawn widespread outrage in Pakistan and around the world. It has to be condemned without reservations. Hamid Mir is reported have suspected that he was on Pakistani intelligence agency ISI's "hit list".

Pakistani Journalist Hamid Mir
In addition to raising serious questions about the role of the media and the ISI, the assassination attempt has also refreshed memories of journalist Saleem Shahzad's murder in 2011 for which ISI was blamed. Here are some of the questions that I would like to explore:

Questions:

1. What is the relationship between Pakistani journalists and the various spy agencies, including the ISI, operating in Pakistan?

2. How do Pakistani journalists work with militants to cover multiple ongoing insurgencies in Pakistan?

3. Has Pakistani media played a responsible journalistic role in covering national security issues?

Saleem Shahzad's Murder:

To answer the above questions, let us look at the media coverage of Saleem Shahzad's murder in 2011.

World media widely reported the allegations made against the ISI by former US Chairman of Joint Chiefs Admiral Mike Mullen in a Senate committee hearing in Washington. Adm Mullen alleged that Pakistani government "sanctioned" Shahzad's murder.

What the media left out of their coverage of Shahzad's murder were internal emails of Stratfor analysts leaked by Wikileaks. Stratfor bills itself as a "global intelligence" company. It is widely believed to be a leading intelligence contractor for US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

The leaked emails talked about the "Fine line between an investigative journalist and spy" and added that "The poor bastard went down the rabbit hole and was neutralized".

In another secret email, Stratfor Vice President Fred Burton wrote as follows:

"I'm sure the ISI extracted a confession of his CIA work before he died. There will be a leaked story about his double agent work and the Pakis rub the CIA's nose in it. Its what intel agencies do. Tit for tat. The world will soon forget him. Price one pays for playing the game."

Hamid Mir with TTP terrorist Ilyas Kashmiri. Mir said he also met TTP leaders
Hakimullah Mehsud and Mullah Fazlullah. 
Attempt on Hamid Mir:

Hamid Mir has built a successful career in journalism on close contacts with Al Qaeda and the Taliban. He is known to have had unusual access to Al Qaeda, Taliban and Baloch militants not granted to others. Mir is the only journalist with the distinction to have interviewed Osama Bin Laden three times, including the last interview that took place after Sept 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States. It has raised questions about his interlocutors, including the ISI and the Taliban.

A 13 minute taped audio conversation between Hamid Mir and a TTP militant (believed to be Usman Punjabi alias Mohammad Omar) was released in 2010 just after the double murder of former ISI agents Colonel Imam and Squadron Leader Khawaja Khalid by the Taliban.

Here are a few excerpts of Hamid Mir's alleged statements from the audio tape:

"... he (Khalid Khwaja) had done all this. After that Maulana Abdul Aziz was arrested and Mr Abdul Rashid Ghazi telephoned me and said, “Now, I don’t have any option. Now, my family and ulema have been defamed as my brother was arrested in a burqa and presented on Pakistan Television. This is a large stain which can only be removed with my blood.” So, he lived up to his words and sacrificed. So, Khalid Khawaja and his wife, anyone may know or not, they will have to answer before Allah Almighty."

"He (Khawaja) himself has confessed in front me that he had links with William Casey. Ok! Leave William, ask him about the Qadiyanis, because I personally believe that Qadiyanis are worse than infidels, what kind of links does he have with Qadiyanis? What relationship does he have with Mansoor Ijaz? Why does he use his money? Why does he go everywhere with him when he comes to Pakistan? Why does he bring him to the mujahideen?"

"He (Canady) was martyred in North Waziristan. He (Khawaja) came to me with Canady’s wife and a daughter, saying Canady’s son, Karim, is at Rawalpindi’s CMH and is injured and the army had arrested him. He asked me to arrange a meeting between the injured and his mother. I said this is very difficult for me and I can’t do this because already they are all against me. But, he said all that you need to do is to arrange a meeting between a mother and her son. So, I arranged it with a lot of difficulties and sent the woman to Rawalpindi CMH, but when she reached there she took a camera out of her burqa and asked her son to record a message that he is innocent, has no links with anyone and has been kept here illegally. She was arrested there because a nurse saw her and seized the camera from her. But I was held responsible for all of it as they told me that I had sent this woman. It was revealed after her arrest that the woman had a Canadian passport and had visited Canada two months ago. After that I faced a lot of difficulties. The Canadian government released the woman and her daughter and then she went back to Canada. In Toronto, she held a press conference and admitted that she worked for the CIA. Now Khalid Khawaja has a long beard and his wife wears a full veil so people like us, who are involved in worldly affairs and have committed sins, believe that if we will help them, we might be forgotten for our sins. When these kinds of people betray us, we lose confidence on the religion itself."

The Daily Times newspaper, which first reported on the tape, said at the time that the information passed on by Mir to the Taliban "could have led to the execution" of former ISI official Khalid Khwaja. Mir denied it was his voice but others authenticated it. Jang Group said it would investigate but nothing came out of it.

Summary:

It appears from the above mixture of allegations and facts that Hamid Mir is not just a journalist but a player in the ongoing militancy in Pakistan. He seems to have worked closely with both the spies and the militants in the past. It also appears that he has managed to alienate both over time and made himself their target. Any serious judicial commission investigation of what happened to Hamid Mir last week must take into account his dealings with the intelligence agencies and the militant outfits to reach any credible conclusion. It is necessary to protect journalists and restore Pakistanis' faith in the media.
Here's a video discussion on the subject:


GeoTV's Hamid Mir Survives Murder Attempt, Blames ISI & Triggers Media Wars from WBT TV on Vimeo.

 Here are the tapes of Hamid Mir's alleged conversation with Usman Punjabi:


Hamid Mir Geo. TV (Exposed Call with Asian Tigers) by xeest-us



Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Pak Taliban Target Right-Wing Media, Politicians in Pakistan

Vindictive Media and Judges Pursue Musharraf

Lal Masjid Case

TTP Terror Threat Looms Large

Taliban vs. Pakistan

Musharraf's Treason Trial

General Kayani's Speech on Terror War Ownership

Impact of Youth Vote and Taliban Violence on Elections 2013

Imran Khan's Social Media Campaign

Pakistan Elections 2013 Predictions 

Why is Democracy Failing in Pakistan?

Viewpoint From Overseas-Vimeo 

Viewpoint From Overseas-Youtube 

15 comments:

Mayraj said...

In 2012, the Pakistani Taliban tried to kill Mir by planting half a kilogram of explosives under his car outside his home in the capital, Islamabad. But the remote-controlled bomb failed to go off.

http://www.indiatvnews.com/crime/news/latest-know-why-taliban-wanted-to-kill-pakistan-s-famous-journa-5912.html

Know why Taliban wanted to kill Pakistan’s famous journalist Hamid Mir

Nisar said...

Riaz Sahib:

There should be NO room for anyone blaming anyone let alone
country's prime institutions without any proof. These are baseless
accusations should not be done by anyone let alone a TV channel…

This is very irresponsible…

Riaz Haq said...

From The Economist Magazine:

THERE was a time when Hamid Mir, Pakistan’s most famous journalist, had little reason to fear his work might put his life in danger. In a country where his trade has long been a dangerous game, he kept on the right side of the media’s two deadliest foes: Pakistan’s militants and its security establishment. He had good contacts with both after making a name for himself as a chronicler of the state-backed jihad in Afghanistan and Kashmir in the 1980s and 1990s. He is perhaps best known for interviewing Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan, just weeks after the attacks on America on September 11th 2001.

But on April 19th gunmen pulled up alongside Mr Mir’s car as he drove into Karachi from the airport, peppering the celebrity journalist with bullets. The attempt to kill Mr Mir, who survived the assault, came three weeks after a similar attack in Lahore on the car of Raza Rumi, a print and television journalist known for his liberal views. More than a dozen other media personalities have been warned their names are on a kill list. Less well-known journalists die all the time: more than 50 have been killed since 2001.

This was not the first attempt on Mr Mir’s life. A bomb was found under his car at his home in Islamabad in 2012, showing that Mr Mir, now the host of a popular political chat show, had made some powerful enemies. Over the years he had become more critical of militants, condemning suicide-bombers and the sectarian murder of Shias. He staunchly supported Malala Yousafzai, a schoolgirl activist who survived being shot by the Taliban for advocating the education of girls.

Mr Mir also criticised extra-judicial killings by security forces engaged in a dirty counterinsurgency in Balochistan, a southern province. Most recently, he insisted that Pervez Musharraf, a former military dictator, should not be allowed to dodge his trial for high treason.

Most journalists in Pakistan instinctively treat discussion of the army and militancy with great caution. Najam Sethi, the country’s most high-profile liberal commentator (and a former contributor to this newspaper), has taken to travelling in an armoured vehicle. In recent weeks at least two outspoken journalists, including Mr Rumi, have fled abroad for safety. There are now barely a handful of journalists prepared to challenge publicly the ideas of the radical religious right.
-------------
While Mr Mir was undergoing emergency surgery, his brother, another journalist, alleged the attack had been planned by the Inter-Services Intelligence directorate (ISI), the powerful spy agency of the armed forces. Mr Mir’s family are suspicious, because they think only Pakistan’s spooks could have known about his relatively last-minute trip to Karachi. Geo News, the popular station where Mr Mir works, reported the claims with gusto. Pakistan’s armed forces issued a statement denying any ISI role. Other media outlets did not follow Geo’s lead.

The owner of the Express Tribune ordered his staff to print a front-page story denouncing its media rival, which it said had “undermined the safety and security of Pakistan”. The defence ministry, meanwhile, lodged an official request for Geo’s broadcasting licence to be revoked.


http://www.economist.com/news/asia/21601311-shooting-famous-journalist-exposes-worrying-trend-silencing-liberals

Rana said...

many of the international jourlist has interview mass of Talaban, they all are traitor in your eye. Jourlist has been doing it since a long.

Riaz Haq said...

Rana: "many of the international jourlist has interview mass of Talaban, they all are traitor in your eye. Jourlist has been doing it since a long."

No one has had the kind of access to terrorists and militants that Hamid Mir enjoyed. He has interviewed Osama Bin Laden 3 times...the last time was after 911. He has built his career on it. How many have had long conversations in which they passed information to Taliban terrorists leading to the murder of ISI agents? It raises serious questions about who is helping him? Was it the ISI before he turned on them? Or supporters of the terrorists in Pakistan?

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an interesting Op Ed on Pakistani media:

Media in Pakistan was fettered by successive repressive regimes but in 1989, Benazir Bhutto freed the Print media while in 2002, ironically a military dictator General Pervez Musharraf provided relief by permitting the establishment of private TV and FM Radio channels. In the past twelve years the electronic media has grown at an exponential rate unfortunately, it has become unbridled and like a genie let out of the bottle, it has tended to become a conglomerate and media houses indulge in imperialism and manipulation of public opinion.
----------------
A R Khalid, Professor, Department of Journalism, University of Punjab, in his book “Communication Today” writes, “The fact is the Pakistani journalists are anything but human. Most of them are the worst breed of parasites. Instead of helping the nation they seem hell-bent to suck its blood, to strip it to last drop and even to bargain national interests for the sake of personal aggrandizement. Their slogan about freedom is only a camouflage to squeeze personal benefits out of the state officials who spare no effort either to out-clever the journalists. Thus the media men in Pakistan should realize their responsibilities and try to discharge their duties to the satisfaction of the people and not to wangle the hypocritical favours of the rulers to secure lucrative advantages for themselves”.

A considerable portion of the Pakistani press is thriving on sensationalism. These newspapers and magazines often resort to defamation of prestigious institutions. The modus operandi of these sensationalists is that they pick any small incident, often at the behest of some vested interest and blow it out of proportions in order to create sensation. Prof. Khalid’s book quoted above was published in 1991 but his comments are valid even today.

Media has been an effective tool for propaganda, which is an intricate science and a planned exercise to undermine the will of the people. Hitler had entrusted an entire ministry to Goebbles to achieve his ends. The Jews and Hindus are past masters at it. Machiavelli and Chanakya devoted volumes to the art of statecraft and deceit through propaganda.
-----------
Recently, a TV anchor of this group was attacked by an unknown group in Karachi. The anchor person survived but at the drop of a hat, blamed the ISI for the attempt on his life. Every journalist, institution and human rights practitioner condemned the attack and wanted the assailants to be brought to justice. The media group however went berserk in its campaign and continuously portrayed the ISI as villainous and demanded the resignation of the DG of this prestigious institution, which has been a thorn in the side of the Indians, thwarting conspiracies and assaults on Pakistan.

This is not only contrary to all forms of decorum but tantamount to conspiring with the enemy to weaken a state institution. If the media group had evidence of the involvement of the ISI, it could have presented before the free and fair judicial system and seek reparation. PEMRA would be well advised to ensure media freedom but discourage its imperialism and misuse to further vested interests.


http://pakobserver.net/detailnews.asp?id=240489

Arif Ali said...

Khalid khawaja was my business partner for almost 9 yaers. I was with him when he was negociating with Lal Masjid, s Rasheed Ghazi. Khalid khawaja was good muslim and had no link with any qadiani accept Mansoor Ejaz. I have also some differences but I tell you Hamid mir is lier and murderer of Khalid Khawaja.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an interesting piece from Columbia Journalism Review (CJR) on Pakistani media:

Pakistan’s raucous and increasingly lethal media sector is exerting a powerful effect on decision-making in the country, even though journalists themselves are divided on whether their influence is positive or negative. That’s the key finding of a survey of more than 350 Pakistani journalists, policymakers, and academics. ..... More than two-thirds of policymakers surveyed said the media has a “significant” effect on their decision-making and 94 percent said they “always” or “sometimes” take media reaction into account before making a decision. That group includes current and former government officials and analysts at policy think tanks and civil society organizations. Those policymakers actually have a more positive view of the media than journalists themselves. More journalists and academics believe the media makes societal divisions worse than say media helps heal those divisions; it’s exactly the reverse among policymakers. Likewise, far more policymakers than journalists and academics believe the impact of private TV has been positive. Pakistani foreign and domestic policies are inextricably linked, shaped by a complex web of political, military, and sectarian factors. Media is one element in that equation. Just over half the journalists defined as “significant” the media’s impact on relations with the U.S. and with India, Pakistan’s key rival for power in South Asia; policymakers and academics agreed with the journalists regarding the U.S., but slightly more than half the policymakers and academics said the media’s influence was “minimal” or “none” when it came to relations with India. All three groups surveyed are united in overwhelmingly believing the media has played a “significant” role in exposing corruption, though a sizable minority of journalists were more cynical, seeing their role as “insignificant.” Pakistan is locked in a virtual civil war with Islamist militants, both home-grown and from Afghanistan. Even on this complicated issue, more than one-third of those surveyed from each group believes the media has a “significant” impact on relations with the militants, who recently issued a fatwa against the media, which it declared to be a “party” to “this war on Islam.” The willingness of Pakistani journalists to speak truth to power has consistently proven lethal. In the four years since TV deregulation sparked an explosion of private television channels, there have been almost twice as many deaths as the previous decade, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, the most infamous of which was the 2011 torture and murder of investigative reporter Saleem Shahzad, who, like Hamid Mir, claimed he had been threatened by Pakistan’s ISI military intelligence wing, but who also had just published a book on the Taliban and al-Qaeda. Yet the complex calculation involved in determining what kinds of stories could prove fatal and which push the envelope just short of that point is reflected in the responses to the question, “Can journalists report sensitive stories without fear of reprisals?” Almost 30 percent of journalists responded “yes,” double the percentage of policymakers and academics who thought that was the case, and another 30 percent of journalists said they could “sometimes” tackle such stories. Pakistan is a nation of contradictions, not least when it comes to the news industry. Nothing better sums up those contradictions than the response to the question: “Should government officials mislead the media if they think it is in the national interest?” At a time when Pakistani journalists are dying in the pursuit of truth, the response seemed to turn reality on its head: More policymakers than journalists said “no,” the government should not have that right.

http://www.cjr.org/behind_the_news/media_policy_and_conflict_in_p.php

Riaz Haq said...

Here's NY Times' Declan Walsh on the Hamid Mir Affair:

...The vituperative exchanges have exposed troubling aspects of Pakistan’s oft-lauded media revolution: Along with the military’s concerted campaign to muzzle the press is the heavy hand of querulous media barons who, driven by commercial concerns and personal grudges, may be endangering the sector they helped create.

“The way this has played out is extremely disturbing,” said Zaffar Abbas, editor of Dawn newspaper, one of the few media outlets that have stayed out of the dispute. “I’ve never seen the media like this, really going after one other. If better sense doesn’t prevail, whatever we have earned in press freedom will be lost.”

The stakes are high on all sides. Since 2007, when television coverage played a key role in fanning the street protests that led to the ouster of General Musharraf, the news media has grown into a powerful factor in Pakistani society. Television news has widened public debate and exposed abuses, but it has faced sharp criticism for shoddy reporting and for giving a platform to Islamist extremists.

The exploding market has also turned prime-time talk show hosts like Mr. Mir into powerful figures, and made fortunes for a handful of newly minted media tycoons.

------

“It is supremely dangerous to be a reporter in Pakistan,” he said.

The military, in particular, has squirmed under the media’s relentless scrutiny. Tensions have been bubbling for some time between the Jang Group, the country’s largest media conglomerate, and the ISI. Jang is owned by Mir Shakil ur-Rehman, a reclusive editor who lives with his two wives in Dubai, where he keeps a tight grip on a media empire that includes Geo News, several sports and entertainment channels, and a stable of newspapers in Urdu and English.

Last fall, Mr. Rehman came to believe that the ISI was sponsoring a new television station, Bol, to dilute his commercial and political clout. His newspapers ran hostile reports about Bol, prompting competing media organizations to hit back with stories that painted Geo as sympathetic to Pakistan’s old rival, India.
---------
Unlike in the Musharraf era, when journalists united against military attempts to muzzle them, virulent rivalries between the businessmen who own the major stations have pulled the news media apart.

Mr. Rehman of the Jang group has a rancorous relationship with Sultan Lakhani, who owns the smaller Express media group, which includes a television station and several newspapers. (One of those papers, the English-language Express Tribune, prints The International New York Times in Pakistan.) A third station, ARY, is owned by a family of gold dealers that has little love for Mr. Rehman.

“The control of the owners and their say in what happens has increased tremendously,” said one editor, speaking on the condition of anonymity. “No editor or journalist can take a stand against them.”

The turmoil has partly obscured the plight of Mr. Mir, who has an ambiguous history with the ISI. He shot to prominence after interviewing Osama bin Laden in 1998, and was initially seen as sympathetic to the pro-jihadi agenda of the Pakistani military and the ISI. But in recent years he has championed the cause of Baluch nationalists, angering the army, and highlighted human rights abuses during military operations.

He is now under close protection at a Karachi hospital, where flowers are piled outside his door and doctors report a steady recovery. In a statement issued through his brother, Mr. Mir vowed to “continue the fight for the rights of people till my last breath and last drop of blood.”....


http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/27/world/asia/attack-on-journalist-starts-battle-in-pakistani-press.html

Riaz Haq said...

Here's Wall Street Journal on Geo-Jang Group Media Mogul vs Military:

Media mogul Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman has played an outsized role in shaping Pakistan's politics in recent years. Now, his empire is struggling for survival after colliding with the country's most powerful institution: the military establishment.

The clash was sparked by the shooting last month of Hamid Mir, the star journalist of Mr. Rahman's Geo TV channel. Geo reporters alleged on broadcasts that the military's main spy agency was behind the attack. The military angrily denied the claim, and is now pushing to shut the network.

On Tuesday, Pakistan's media regulator will begin hearings on whether to close the channel.

The controversy is reversing fragile gains made by increasingly assertive Pakistani media over the past decade, analysts and media professionals say.

"Media has become a power center in Pakistan," said Absar Alam, an anchor at Aaj News, a competing news channel. "That has triggered alarm among traditional power players who think that they should have the exclusive right to shape opinion."

Central to the drama is Dubai-based Mr. Rahman, who owns Pakistan's biggest-selling newspaper, the Urdu-language Jang, in addition to Geo, the leading TV news channel.

According to employees, Mr. Rahman is intimately involved with editorial decisions at both outlets, which have pushed for the prosecution of former military ruler Pervez Musharraf, campaigned for peace with archenemy India, and highlighted the abduction of suspected militants by security forces. Geo was also instrumental in bringing to an end Mr. Musharraf's regime in 2008 with heavy coverage of an opposition movement led by lawyers that made a hero out of Supreme Court Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry.

The political sway of his media empire has alarmed some Pakistanis, including rival media organizations, the military and some politicians.

"If one person has the power to set the political agenda, that is frightening," said Moeed Pirzada,an anchor at the competing Express News, which has echoed military criticism of Geo. "He is running a monopoly."

The boldness of Mr. Rahman's media group mirrors the larger struggle between civilian and military forces for power as a country ruled by the army for half its history tries to develop democratically. Mr. Rahman's publications were critical of the previous civilian government of Pakistan Peoples Party, which barred its members from appearing on Geo for more than a year in protest. They offered friendlier coverage of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, elected a year ago. Mr. Sharif, in turn, is widely seen as supporting Mr. Rahman in his confrontation with the military. Mr. Sharif visited Mr. Mir after the assassination attempt but denied he was taking sides. The government established a judicial commission to investigate the shooting and denied any conflict of interests.

"Geo was somewhat softer on this government," said Hasan Askari Rizvi, a security analyst. "There is a feeling in military circles that after the shooting, Geo reacted this way because they had some kind of government support."
-----------
Some Pakistani media industry leaders say that Mr. Rahman may have miscalculated with his decision to run the accusations against the ISI in such a stark way. This overreach, they say, is allowing the military to respond by taming all coverage of its activities and to divide civilian forces.

"The space for the military establishment was shrinking," said an executive at another television channel. "He has given the game back to the military."



http://online.wsj.com/news/article_email/SB10001424052702303417104579543910736702046-lMyQjAxMTA0MDAwNjEwNDYyWj

Riaz Haq said...

Here's Wall Street Journal on Geo-Jang Group Media Mogul vs Military:

Media mogul Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman has played an outsized role in shaping Pakistan's politics in recent years. Now, his empire is struggling for survival after colliding with the country's most powerful institution: the military establishment.

The clash was sparked by the shooting last month of Hamid Mir, the star journalist of Mr. Rahman's Geo TV channel. Geo reporters alleged on broadcasts that the military's main spy agency was behind the attack. The military angrily denied the claim, and is now pushing to shut the network.

On Tuesday, Pakistan's media regulator will begin hearings on whether to close the channel.

The controversy is reversing fragile gains made by increasingly assertive Pakistani media over the past decade, analysts and media professionals say.

"Media has become a power center in Pakistan," said Absar Alam, an anchor at Aaj News, a competing news channel. "That has triggered alarm among traditional power players who think that they should have the exclusive right to shape opinion."

Central to the drama is Dubai-based Mr. Rahman, who owns Pakistan's biggest-selling newspaper, the Urdu-language Jang, in addition to Geo, the leading TV news channel.

According to employees, Mr. Rahman is intimately involved with editorial decisions at both outlets, which have pushed for the prosecution of former military ruler Pervez Musharraf, campaigned for peace with archenemy India, and highlighted the abduction of suspected militants by security forces. Geo was also instrumental in bringing to an end Mr. Musharraf's regime in 2008 with heavy coverage of an opposition movement led by lawyers that made a hero out of Supreme Court Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry.

The political sway of his media empire has alarmed some Pakistanis, including rival media organizations, the military and some politicians.

"If one person has the power to set the political agenda, that is frightening," said Moeed Pirzada,an anchor at the competing Express News, which has echoed military criticism of Geo. "He is running a monopoly."

The boldness of Mr. Rahman's media group mirrors the larger struggle between civilian and military forces for power as a country ruled by the army for half its history tries to develop democratically. Mr. Rahman's publications were critical of the previous civilian government of Pakistan Peoples Party, which barred its members from appearing on Geo for more than a year in protest. They offered friendlier coverage of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, elected a year ago. Mr. Sharif, in turn, is widely seen as supporting Mr. Rahman in his confrontation with the military. Mr. Sharif visited Mr. Mir after the assassination attempt but denied he was taking sides. The government established a judicial commission to investigate the shooting and denied any conflict of interests.

"Geo was somewhat softer on this government," said Hasan Askari Rizvi, a security analyst. "There is a feeling in military circles that after the shooting, Geo reacted this way because they had some kind of government support."
-----------
Some Pakistani media industry leaders say that Mr. Rahman may have miscalculated with his decision to run the accusations against the ISI in such a stark way. This overreach, they say, is allowing the military to respond by taming all coverage of its activities and to divide civilian forces.

"The space for the military establishment was shrinking," said an executive at another television channel. "He has given the game back to the military."



http://online.wsj.com/news/article_email/SB10001424052702303417104579543910736702046-lMyQjAxMTA0MDAwNjEwNDYyWj

Riaz Haq said...

From Newsweek by Julian Assange of Wikileaks:

It was at this point that I realized Eric Schmidt might not have been an emissary of Google alone. Whether officially or not, he had been keeping some company that placed him very close to Washington, D.C., including a well-documented relationship with President Obama. Not only had Hillary Clinton’s people known that Eric Schmidt’s partner had visited me, but they had also elected to use her as a back channel.

While WikiLeaks had been deeply involved in publishing the inner archive of the U.S. State Department, the U.S. State Department had, in effect, snuck into the WikiLeaks command center and hit me up for a free lunch. Two years later, in the wake of his early 2013 visits to China, North Korea and Burma, it would come to be appreciated that the chairman of Google might be conducting, in one way or another, “back-channel diplomacy” for Washington. But at the time it was a novel thought.

I put it aside until February 2012, when WikiLeaks—along with over thirty of our international media partners—began publishing the Global Intelligence Files: the internal email spool from the Texas-based private intelligence firm Stratfor. One of our stronger investigative partners—the Beirut-based newspaper Al Akhbar— scoured the emails for intelligence on Jared Cohen.

The people at Stratfor, who liked to think of themselves as a sort of corporate CIA, were acutely conscious of other ventures that they perceived as making inroads into their sector. Google had turned up on their radar. In a series of colorful emails they discussed a pattern of activity conducted by Cohen under the Google Ideas aegis, suggesting what the “do” in “think/do tank” actually means.

Cohen’s directorate appeared to cross over from public relations and “corporate responsibility” work into active corporate intervention in foreign affairs at a level that is normally reserved for states. Jared Cohen could be wryly named Google’s “director of regime change.”

According to the emails, he was trying to plant his fingerprints on some of the major historical events in the contemporary Middle East. He could be placed in Egypt during the revolution, meeting with Wael Ghonim, the Google employee whose arrest and imprisonment hours later would make him a PR-friendly symbol of the uprising in the Western press. Meetings had been planned in Palestine and Turkey, both of which—claimed Stratfor emails—were killed by the senior Google leadership as too risky.
---------

Looking for something more concrete, I began to search in WikiLeaks’ archive for information on Cohen. State Department cables released as part of Cablegate reveal that Cohen had been in Afghanistan in 2009, trying to convince the four major Afghan mobile phone companies to move their antennas onto U.S. military bases. In Lebanon, he quietly worked to establish an intellectual and clerical rival to Hezbollah, the “Higher Shia League.” And in London he offered Bollywood movie executives funds to insert anti-extremist content into their films, and promised to connect them to related networks in Hollywood.

---------

If the future of the Internet is to be Google, that should be of serious concern to people all over the world—in Latin America, East and Southeast Asia, the Indian subcontinent, the Middle East, sub-Saharan Africa, the former Soviet Union and even in Europe—for whom the Internet embodies the promise of an alternative to U.S. cultural, economic, and strategic hegemony.

A “don’t be evil” empire is still an empire.

Extracted from When Google Met Wikileaks by Julian Assange published by OR Books. Newsweek readers can obtain a 20 percent discount on the cover price when ordering from the OR Books website and including the offer code word NEWSWEEK.

http://www.newsweek.com/assange-google-not-what-it-seems-279447

Riaz Haq said...

Never before in its media history has Pakistan experienced such a large scale of resignations from top journalists based on the investigations of a foreign newspaper. Some jaded skeptical citizens are complaining why their own secret services and the media organizations are unable to dig out stories as big as the one reported by the NYT. Journalists can be blamed for their inefficiencies but they must be commended for this stance they have taken in the wake of the scandal surrounding BOL. This was probably the most highly paid job these journalists had ever held in their careers. Many of them had worked hard for decades to rise on the top and they had reached here in spite of encountering peer jealousies and frequent criticism. They had already been labeled as greedy and selfish. It must have been a tough decision for many of them but they have surely made the journalism community very proud and instilled a new spirit of hope that journalism is not for sale.

These journalists have set a new precedence for their country's media. They have acted as bravely as the lawyers did in 2007 by standing up against General Musharraf when the former dictator deposed the country's Chief Justice. Many lawyers lost income and missed opportunities to be promoted as judges because of their commitment to the country's constitution. They struggled for two daunting years before General Musharraf was compelled to reinstate the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Today, it was the journalists' turn to show that money did not solely define who they are and what they stand for. Many of them made a decision that they would perhaps never regret.

The resignation episode also comes as a reminder that the media in Pakistan is gradually changing for better. The recent years have seen more journalists coming out and refusing dictations from the military and other non-state actors and now they have said no to a business tycoon who believed he could buy the best of the country's journalists. So, what are the lessons learned from this episode? Husain Haqqani, a former journalist and Pakistan's ex-ambassador to the United States, summarized it this way on Twitter: "Lesson for journo friends from #Bol #Axact saga: When someone offers way more money than market rates, the money is often shady."

The NYT report has pushed the Pakistani media into a new age. One lesson that Pakistan's press corps should learn is that that foreign journalists who produce excellent journalism do not do so on the instructions of any foreign governments or intelligence agencies, as they accused journalist Declan Walsh. Quality journalism is extremely essential for a functioning democracy. Journalists should keep questioning everything and everyone, including themselves, so that a culture of accountably and transparency is developed and promoted.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/malik-siraj-akbar/how-the-axact-scandal-changed-pakistans-media_b_7428644.html

Riaz Haq said...

Until 2002, Pakistan’s broadcast media was a narrow field; it had one radio station, Radio Pakistan, started in 1947 and one state-owned television channel, Pakistan Television, started in 1964; both were mouthpieces for officially slanted information, alongside privately held print media dominated by three major consortiums: the liberal Jang Group, owned by the media magnate Shakeel ur-Rahman (this group now owns the broadcast and web outlet GEO); the Nawai Waqt Group, which treads a right-wing line, and the English-language Dawn Group, the most moderate of the three (the newspaper Dawn was founded in 1941 in Delhi, India, by Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the leader of Pakistan’s independence movement, to promote the moderate ideals of his Muslim League).
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Then, in 2002, Gen. Pervez Musharraf decided to open Pakistan to the global flow of information in order to reverse decades of isolation. He allowed private television channels and FM radio stations to obtain licenses, setting off a media boom. Their reporting during the conflicts that followed 9/11 and spilled over into Pakistan allowed these television channels to flourish, taking viewers away from state media in favor of more independent reporting.

Ironically, General Musharraf himself forced GEO off the air temporarily in 2007 when the channel criticized his suspension of Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry. But today, out of office, the general once again flirts with the media as he tries to return to politics.

The media have grown to 40 news channels, 143 radio stations, and hundreds of national and regional newspapers. For that they are often called “vibrant.”

Another descriptor is “vulgar.” On prime-time television, news is sensationalized, with ratings the first consideration; alongside hysterical reporting are thrilling or tragic music and crude, insensitive graphics; virtually everything is “breaking news” in no hierarchy of importance. Meanwhile, large corporations like ARY and the Lakson Group have acquired media companies after discovering that controlling media can protect their corporate interests.

Advertisers get huge influence over what’s published or aired. Advertising breaks are frequent, and banners for commercial products run incessantly. Advertising also dominates front pages: one major newspaper group recently gave front-page ads prominence over headlines on all of its papers.

Meanwhile, the government still seeks to control the media; Pakistan’s Electronic Media Regulatory Authority wants an existing law amended to permit “de-linking” of television channels from their satellites if they broadcast “objectionable” or “unwanted” material.

While many in the media retain editorial integrity in the face of these pressures, Pakistani media houses have yet to come up with an industrywide code of conduct or self-regulatory body. Nor have they been able to stay unbiased. Often they blatantly take sides in political conflicts, even while describing themselves as protectors only of the public good.

So, what is the way forward? Ensuring the safety and security of Pakistani journalists is the best starting point; the industry’s foot soldiers need more training, as well as job tenure and pensions. Forming unions is another necessity, as well as creating a framework of regulation that offers protection against state and corporate pressure.

But what Pakistan’s media needs most is a unified sense of its own professional conscience, so that it can continue to thrive as it fulfills its ultimate duty to Pakistanis: to report the news free from bias and influence, while telling a good story that will catch citizens’ attention.

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/26/opinion/bina-shah-journalism-in-pakistan-fear-and-favor.html?_r=0

Riaz Haq said...

#India among 3 most dangerous nations for #journalists. India more dangerous than #Pakistan & #Afghanistan @htTweets http://www.hindustantimes.com/india/110-journalists-killed-in-2015-india-deadliest-asian-country/story-7QLJwYGHQiq5EK8vdpPjQN.html …
India was among the three most dangerous countries for journalists in 2015, with nine reporters losing their lives during the year, according to the annual report of Reporters Without Borders released on Tuesday.
The media watchdog said these deaths confirmed “India’s position as Asia’s deadliest country for media personnel, ahead of both Pakistan and Afghanistan”.
Only war-torn Iraq and Syria recorded the deaths of more journalists than India. Four of the nine Indian journalists murdered in the past year were killed “for still undetermined reasons”, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said.
Besides India, the eight other countries where the most journalists were killed are Iraq (11), Syria (10), France (eight), Yemen (eight), Mexico (eight), South Sudan (seven), the Philippines (seven) and Honduras (seven).
A total of 110 journalists were killed in connection with their work or for unclear reasons in 2015, and at least 67 were killed while reporting or because of their work.
“These 67 deaths bring to 787 the total number of journalists killed in connection with their work since 2005,” RSF said in its report.
Indian journalists “daring to cover organised crime and its links with politicians have been exposed to a surge in violence, especially violence of criminal origin, since the start of 2015”, the report said.