June 12, 2011

The warring Jang Group & ISI's nasty media war

A Report

The Jang Group
THE WikiLeaks may have done damages to the American Administration—but the released diplomatic cables have opened the eyes of the common people in Pakistan. The leaks acted as a catalyst to increase the awareness level of the common people. Whatever The Terrorland blogs had been highlighting in an effort to sensitize the mainstream media—now the public has gotten an "authentic and documented proof" of the "unlawful activities" of the civilian and military establishments in the country.

Pakistan's despot military regime was shaken for the first time and the almighty generals suddenly fell from grace. The people got the courage to speak against the "criminal activities" of the people in the military establishment especially the secret agencies. Osama bin Laden's killing strengthened the voice of the helpless 180 million Pakistanis. And now they seek reforms in the military, which sucks the blood of the people with consumption of 80 percent of the budget and still it can't protect the country, not even themselves—what a pity!

Anyways, a "silent public revolution" is forcing the “immature generals” to change their typical tyrant style of ruling the country. Generals have reduced the Parliament and elected government to their slavish stooges. However, certain political leaders are rewriting history of the country by representing the public's sentiments for “taming the unbridled” military establishment. Reforms are a must otherwise the time would prove catastrophic for the military as an institution.

On June 1, 2011, the Dawn Media Group tried to show mirror to its business rival the Jang Group by publishing a cable from the WikiLeaks (2008: US criticized major media group for irresponsible reporting), in which the American Embassy in Islamabad has done postmortem of the biggest media empire of Pakistan in a very intelligent and professional way. This cable not only exposes the “pathetic working method” of the Jang Group but also gives a lesson to mediapersons how to behave professionally.

Writer/journalist Habib R. Sulemani says that in Pakistan the military establishment, through the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) and Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), uses the electronic and print media as a weapon – especially the Jang Group (Urdu) is used to control the general public and Dawn Media Group (English) is used to control policymakers besides sending “strong and concocted messages” to the world at large. Both of these groups have reportedly either ISI cells inside the organizations or have some top journalists on the payroll of the secret agencies.   

“When the media becomes propaganda tool for a group, organization or government,” he says, “then it loses its freedom. Ultimately, journalistic ethics die and intellectual terrorism takes birth. But who cares for the journalistic ethics in a chaotic country like Pakistan, where secret agencies attack journalists for trying to behave professionally.”

Mr. Sulemani, who has worked for years with both Jang and Dawn media groups, survived three attempts on his life last year, for which he accuses the ISI and some colleagues, who reportedly work for the spy agency. He is living in solitary confinement for about 15 months and the government and his employers at the Dawn have done nothing.

“Besides the military establishment and elected government,” he adds, “the media houses should also change their typical behavior—they should follow the laws regarding the working environment, wages and security of employee especially working journalists.”

Many other journalists, who didn’t want to be named on The Terrorland, fearing for their lives, have also demanded reforms in the media, asking for implementation of the Wage Board Award and better salary package for all media persons—not just for the few anchorpersons, who are allegedly also on the payroll of the ISI, MI and other agencies.

If you had missed the cable, now enjoy reading this historic document. We hope there must be a cable about the Dawn Group as well but that would never be published.—The Terrorland Team (TTT)

Subject: Jang Group’s behavior makes working with Geo TV untenable

1.  This is an action request see paragraph 15.

2.  Summary:  Post believes the time has come to end the contract  the BBG holds with “GEO TV Network” and move it to a responsible  organization.   GEO is owned by the “Jang Group,” a multimedia corporation owning Urdu and English language newspapers and magazines and Urdu television stations in all major media markets in Pakistan, with cable TV contracts in the United States and elsewhere.  While claiming to be moderate and neutral to USG  policies, the “Jang Group” recently has increased its criticism of  the USG and its policies, has engaged in anti-Semitic behavior and  has specifically targeted the Ahmadi religious minority group in a  television program that resulted in the death of two (including one  Amcit) Ahmadis.

3.  We have evidence the Jang Group is consciously publishing and broadcasting false and inflammatory stories, without regard to the fact that they could encourage violence against Americans or against U.S. interests.  It is purposefully using the reach of its television network to amplify unchecked hate speech and promote violence in a brazen attempt to uphold or even increase its market share in a down economy.   Post requests that the BBG cancel its contract to disseminate VOA programming through GEO.  [End summary]

4.  The “Jang Group” is a multimedia corporation owning Urdu and English language newspapers, magazines, and television stations in all major media markets in Pakistan with a country-wide reach.

Founded at the end of the Second World War by Mir Khalil ur Rehman. The company consists of three groups: Independent Newspapers Corporation (Pvt) Limited, News Publications (Pvt) Limited, and Independent Media Corporation (Pvt) Limited.

5.  The Group Chairman and Executive Director is Mir Javed ur  Rehman, the eldest son of founder Mir Khalil ur Rehman.  The Group Chief Executive and Editor in Chief is his younger brother, Mir  Shakil ur Rehman.  The Group Editor is Mehmood Shaam (Karachi).

6.  The Independent Newspapers Corporation (Pvt) Limited owns the daily Urdu language “Jang” with editions issued in Karachi, Lahore, Rawalpindi, Quetta, Multan, and London.  It has a combined estimated circulation of 300,000 plus (the largest in the country).  Other  papers owned by group include the Urdu daily “Awaz” (Lahore),  evening Urdu daily “Awam” (Karachi), evening Urdu daily “Inqilaab”  (Lahore), Urdu weekly “Akhbar-e-Jehan” (Karachi), English weekly
“MAG” (Karachi), and the website www.jang.com.pk.

7.  News Publications (Pvt) Limited owns the English daily “The News,” with editions issued in Karachi, Islamabad, and Lahore.  Its combined daily estimated circulation is 50,000.

8.  Independent Media Corporation (Pvt) Limited owns Urdu language “GEO TV Network.”  The satellite TV channel is headquartered in Dubai, UAE, with studios and offices in Karachi, Islamabad, and Lahore.  “GEO TV Network” started in 2002 with its flagship “GEO TV,” later branching into two channels “GEO News” and “GEO Entertainment” (dramas, sitcoms, etc.).  It has subsequently launched “GEO Super” (24-hour sports), “Aag” (24-hour music) and  international editions including GEO UK, GEO USA, GEO Middle East,  GEO Canada, GEO Europe, and GEO Japan.  The Chief Executive is Mir  Ibrahim Rehman (based in Karachi), the son of Mir Shakil ur Rehman  and the President is Imran Aslam (Karachi).

9.  Post has watched with growing concern, as “Jang Group” media entities have grown more irresponsible running erroneous and clearly unsubstantiated stories against not only USG policies and the  Embassy, but also a minority religious group in Pakistan, as well as  espousing anti-Semitic rhetoric.  While initially this could be seen  as a flexing of new found media freedoms allowed under former  President Musharraf — and continued under newly-elected President  Zardari – we now believe these stories are intentional and put our  people at risk.  The Group’s outlets have frequently been the only media outlets in Pakistan to run, without modification or qualification, releases put out by the Taliban.
Among the more egregious acts:

– On August 27, 2008, Jang Group papers ran a story claiming all USAID offices in the FATA had closed due to a threat from  Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan.  Not only was the story a fabrication, but it also made baseless inflammatory accusations claiming  Blackwater USA was handling security and identifying an American  Peshawar Consulate employee as a Jew, stating that as a Jew he  should close down his offices there, “since the presence of Jewish officials in FATA would not be tolerated in any case.”

– On September 7, 2008, “GEO TV Network” aired the program “Aalim  Online.”  The date coincided with the anniversary of a change in  Pakistan’s constitution in 1974 that officially classified the  Ahmadis as “non-Muslims.”   The host Dr. Aamir Liaquat Hussain egged on guests about the Ahmadis.  One guest responded that, “As long as this sedition is alive and even one (Ahmadi) remains on this earth, there is a need to eliminate it.”  Two other guests used the Arabic phrase “Wajb-ul-Qatal (duty to kill) to describe those who believe in the Ahmadi doctrine.  Dr. Hussain did not intervene to moderate the views, and in his closing statement belittled the Ahmadi founder and agreed in essence with the guests’ contention that his followers  were not true Muslims.  No member of the Ahmadi community was invited to speak.  Two prominent Ahmadi leaders, one of them an American citizen, were murdered in Pakistan shortly after the program was televised.

– After the September 20, 2008 Marriott Hotel bombing, English language paper “The News” ran a series of baseless pieces attempting  to blame the bombing on the U.S., claiming that Post had been using  the hotel as a base of operations for “hundreds” of “Marines,”  carrying on about steel boxes that had been moved in and out of the  hotel under cover of night.  When those stories petered out, it claimed that the fire that raged throughout the night of the bombing, was started by chemicals in the guest room of the one of  the Americans who died in the blast.  None of this was ever substantiated in any way, yet ran on the front page of the paper and was echoed by “GEO TV.”.  Few of these stories were picked up by any of the other media, and completely ignored by the international  press here.

– On October 23, 2008, Post’s Information Officer received a call  at 2200 on the mobile telephone he reserves for press calls from  someone who would not identify himself, but claimed that he had just  driven by the IO’s residence, saw there were cars there, and asked  if he had not been invited to a reception.  The individual then  asked about a resolution that had recently been passed by the  Pakistani parliament, and then asked to speak to the Ambassador.

The IO was then asked about a “Daniel Pearl Lecture” he had heard  the IO conducted in Karachi earlier in the week, and then inquired  if the IO was Jewish.  The subsequent story in “The News” took the  IO’s comments out of context in a clear effort to paint a derogatory  picture.

– On November 17, 2008, “GEO TV” suddenly disappeared from the  airwaves in Karachi.  The blackout lasted about six hours.  A senior “GEO” staffer told our senior information LES that the stoppage was  a result of pressure being applied by one of the political parties  due to “GEO” not airing a speech by one of its politicians.  Post  found out subsequently that another “GEO” official disclosed to an  officer of a European diplomatic mission that they had taken  themselves off the air in order to blame the political party, and  garner support for the station.

10.  We have protested directly to reporters, editors, and the Group  Chief Executive and Editor in Chief Mir Shakil ur Rehman over the  consistent inaccuracy of “Jang Group” reporting, as well as their  refusal to apply the most basic standards of journalistic ethics,  stating that we expect to be called about and to respond to any  story any entity of the group is carrying about the Embassy or its  activities, and even provided them with direct telephone numbers for  the IO, the PAO, and the Ambassador.  Despite these efforts, the
“Jang Group” has not changed its practices.

11.  All of this occurs under the eye of the Group Editor who has  not exercised supervision or applied good journalistic practices  when assigning and reviewing stories.  When queried by Post’s IO he  stated that they know that many of their reporters have political  agendas, are paid by ISI, military intelligence, Jamaat-e-Islami, or  other interests but that they prefer not to fire or reprimand these  reporters.

12.  The problem of reporting rumor, innuendo, and unsubstantiated  allegations is bad enough when limited to the distribution numbers  of “Jang” daily or “The News.”  However, it is when these stories  are amplified by the “GEO TV Network” that the truly negative  influence expands to substantial numbers.  And all of this by their own admission is calculated to maintain or increase their market  share.

13.  On a recent visit to “GEO TV Network” offices in Karachi, our IO had a conversation putting all of this into context.  “GEO” sees its behavior as win-win with sensationalism and hate speech  generating ratings and any attempt by authorities to rein it in  allowing them to exploit their circumstance by claiming censorship.

While they realize that we (like the GOP, Brits, Canadians and many  of the international reporters) find their reporting reprehensible  and dangerous, we have supported them in the past, especially when  President Musharraf took “GEO TV” off the air during the 2007 State  of Emergency, and believe we dare not stop them lest we be seen as  hypocrites.  Their calculus is that we are more cowed by accusations  of actively trampling their freedom of the press than we are of  tacitly supporting hate speech.  Therein lies the rub for the USG –  at what point do we cater to consistent, blatant hate speech and  intentionally inaccurate and irresponsible reporting in major daily  newspapers and a country’s largest broadcaster which threatens the  safety of American citizens or U.S. interests?

14.   We have discussed the issue with the GOP at different levels, including President Zardari, and all are concerned by the “Jang  Group’s” coverage.  While wishing to grant the benefit of the doubt  in order to protect the right to a free press, we believe the utter  lack of any journalistic standard or editorial restraint has now  proven too much to overlook.

15.  Action Request:  In light of this calculated behavior, post believes it is time to terminate the BBG contract to disseminate VOA programming through the “Geo TV Network.”  Post recommends finding a more balanced and responsible partner with whom to deal for our media program contracts in Pakistan. Dawn
Other posts you may want to read


  1. Jang Group Response (Part-1)

    A spokesman of the Jang Group has contradicted the allegations levelled by the US Embassy in the shape of whatever has appeared in the press with reference to WikiLeaks in the last few days.

    Jang Group has made it clear that Dawn had furnished a list of allegations against the Jang Group levelled by the US Embassy and had sought our viewpoint on our demand. In the light of these lists we had contradicted the allegations in a detailed reply. The reply was based on solid arguments, facts and evidence. So much so that we even made an offer to this newspaper that they could be apprised of correspondence made so far between the Jang Group and the US Embassy.

    The spokesman regretted that in spite of the fact that each and every allegation was replied to and contradicted, the newspaper thought it fit to publish ex parte the list of allegations against us and that too without our reply. Besides another newspaper also published the news without getting the viewpoint of the Jang Group.

    The following is the detailed reply we had sent to the above-mentioned newspaper.

    Like large media groups elsewhere in the world that are assailed by opposing sides for both being soft and hard on a particular issue, we too have been accused of being pro-America and pro-Taliban, pro-Israel and anti-Semitic, pro-dictatorship and pro-lawyer s movement, and pro-military and pro-India and of political partiality by various political parties, all at the same time.

    We take these contradictory allegations as a positive sign that confirms our commitment to the pursuit of truth and to the plurality of ideas. It is an open secret that those accusing us of following pro-US, pro-Israel, pro-India policies are people/ parties belonging to various schools of thought, not limited to a particular group. Such allegations prove that the policies of the group are uniform for everyone and the group is trying to serve the country in line with best journalistic principles. Therefore, the allegations made in the WikiLeaks cables are vehemently denied.

    1-The US embassy did write to us twice about some of our stories and talk shows. Not once have they suggested that they have evidence the Jang group is consciously publishing and broadcasting false and inflammatory stories ... The claim that the Jang Group admitted that this was being done to maintain or increase market share is obviously ludicrous. Even if this accusation were correct - and we would like to stress that nothing could be further from the truth - why would we volunteer this self indicting admission?

    We had, in fact, said that the market demanded that the people of the country and the world should know the role being played by the United States, and the market is of truth and credibility.

  2. Jang Group Response (Part-2)

    The allegation that the Jang Group is pursuing market and market share alone and is not concerned about responsible journalism is strongly refuted. The allegation among other things insinuates that we are only interested in increasing our market share and revenue. The Jang Group and Geo compete using credibility, breaking news and diversity of opinion and many times these values result in less revenue and not more.

    Supporting the lawyer s movement that led to Pakistan s first independent judiciary was not popular at the time we started to support it. Our efforts resulted in over 20 million dollars worth of losses as all four of our Network s channels were shut for three months.

    Within 48 hours of the Mumbai act, Geo broke the news that Ajmal Kasab was from Pakistan. This was not at all popular at the time and hundreds picketed outside our offices and a government senator tried to sue us for the act of treason . Two cases were filed against us in this regard. Similarly, when the Jang Group launched Aman Ki Asha, a campaign for peace between Indian and Pakistan, with the largest media group, the Times of India, several local media groups and political leaders accused us of being RAW and Jewish agents.

    Recently we have launched a much-acclaimed campaign regarding taxes, raising the question that if we want an independent foreign policy, more than 2% of us have to pay for it. This is a very unpopular stance to take for a Group that is accused of only doing what the market ordered.

    We had responded to each and every concern raised by the then US Ambassador Anne Patterson. In most of the incidents mentioned by her, we had provided ample opportunity to the US embassy to deny the contents of our stories or to provide their point of view. Some accusations were refuted by us, while other stories were based on foreign wire service reports.

    2-It is an incorrect allegation that violence against Qadianis was advocated in a programme of Geo. The transcripts of this programme are available and can be easily checked. We do not have a policy of inciting violence against any group or religion and no one has ever been caused any harm because of our programmes or policies.

    In fact, we have a policy as well as a belief to respect all religions and have promoted interfaith harmony and intra-religious unity in creative and bold ways. We always respected the rights of minorities and have tried to celebrate them and their rights, which are also guaranteed by our Constitution as well as Islam.

  3. Jang Group Response (Part-3)

    It is the part of the record that we are the first in the country who invited priests and pundits to our religious programmes to promote religious harmony.

    3-The war on terror and the relationship between the US and Pakistan have been shrouded in secrecy. Both governments have faced scathing scrutiny from the local as well as international press. It has never suited the governments to reveal details of the presence of US marines, CIA operatives (like Raymond Davis), and operations of Blackwater and other US/CIA contracting security agencies etc in Pakistan. The collection of news reports is very difficult when governments observe secrecy. Despite attempts at secrecy, some of the reports carried by the Jang Group as well as some international media not only revealed details about these issues but they have also been confirmed by WikiLeaks and later developments.

    4-If the US embassy recommended that the contract to broadcast VOA contents be cancelled, then obviously VOA did not see much merit in that recommendation. At no point has VOA, which has an independent board and is not run like our Pemra, ever put any pressure on us regarding editorial policies. We will cancel this contract, if pressure is exerted on us from any side to compromise journalistic ethics.

    Our history, specially recent history, bears testimony to our group being politically and commercially victimised because of the independent policies we have followed. Our support for the resolution of disputes through dialogue - even with India and the Taliban - is a matter of record and we have faced many accusations because of it.

    We are open and transparent about our causes and policies and have even gone to court against people and organisations accusing us of wrongdoing or malafide intent. In some cases our detractors have been forced to retract and apologize, while in some cases they have been served stay orders.

    We are market leaders because of our accurate, credible and swift coverage and we have been recognized globally by various institutes for our balanced and at times fearless reporting including senior US representatives.

    Our media group faces pressure from the government and private sector but we always prefer our professional responsibilities to commercial interests. We have a history of sustaining losses from every government, including this one, which tries to influence editorial policy by financial threats. Occasionally and unwittingly we err but we then seek to correct, clarify and when warranted regret. Jang Group has always believed in improving its coverage based on constructive feedback, and we will carry this tradition in future and hope others do so as well.

    Fazil Jamili,
    Editor - Internet,
    Jang Group of Newspapers.