Freedom Network [FN] is concerned at attempts by a religious-cum-political organization to dictate editorial decisions of Geo News channel’s newsroom, threatening its controller news with dire consequences after the channel refused to toe the line the organization was imposing regarding live coverage of a protest rally of the organization.
“No individual or organization can take editorial control of any media house into their hands and the job should be done by those who professionally are doing this,” FN said on February 3, 2013 in a press freedom alert after a senior journalist’s life was endangered through provocative threats, messages and hate speech.
Ansar Ali Naqvi, controller news with Pakistan’s leading 24/7 news channel – Geo News – alerted his channel and FN, Pakistan’s first independent realtime media watchdog organization, and other international organizations after a ferocious campaign against the journalist accusing him of ignoring news of the organization was launched.
“Yes, the ASWJ [Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat] has named and targeted me for the first time,” Ansar Naqvi told FN in emailed statement from Karachi on Sunday (February 2, 2014).
The organization is known for militant views against a minority Muslim sect’s community members in Pakistan.
“As the government of Sindh and senior Geo News management is aware of the threat, they are both responsible for ensuring the journalist’s safety at all costs and any harm to the Ansar Naqvi will be seen as failure of both the concerned quarters,” FN said.
“I received a call at 1839 hours on my cell number [on January 31] from Akber Saeedi, spokesman for ASWJ, who used to call or text me whenever he needed. Today, he called and said that Geo is not airing tickers and live news of ASWJ dharna [protest] and showing Musharraf, Musharraf and Musharraf news. Aap acha naheen kar rahe hain aur humain majboor na karain (You are not doing good and don’t force us …)”
Naqvi said he reminded the spokesman that Geo News channel did air news tickers of the organization’s leaders, Allama Mohammad Ahmed Ludhianvi and Allama Aurangzaib Farooqi, as “breaking [news] tickers” as the live transmission of Pervez Musharraf legal case judgment took a pause.
The spokesman responded by demanding immediate cut of the live transmission to air his organization’s public meeting against killing of members of the organization.
Explanation from the controller news appeared had little impact on the ASWJ spokesman who only wanted him to do – cut the live transmission. He went on to threaten the controller news: “… otherwise, it would not be good for you.”
“After few minutes, I received a call from our Karachi bureau chief Faysal Aziz Khan, who informed me that our Geo channel crew covering the ASWJ public meeting has been fired upon and they have been forced to run away from the coverage scene,” Ansar narrated the development.
Click this link to watch the video of the public meeting in which the director news was named:
The bureau chief said armed men resorted to firing (which could be heard in the video) after ASWJ leader Akber Saeedi made an announced against the controller news on mike provoking the activists against the journalist.
Hours later, the journalist was bombarded with messages on his cellphone using threatening language and abusing him and his family, Ansar said. “In an hour – from 9 to 10pm – I have received more than 50 SMS in which not life-threatening messages but also insulting family members included.”
Some messages on his cell are:
0321-2483505: “Beta Sudhar ja hamare ulema se bad-tameezi mehangi paregi (Behave yourself, otherwise, misbehaving with our ulema (clerics) will cost you much.”
0334-1725592: “Janab Aap nay Ahle Sunnat Waljamt kay tarjuman ke sath Bad tamizi hai-Aakhir tum nay yeh bad tamizi kiyoon ki hai tumhare khilaf action liya jayega”from Tehreek Talban Pakistan (Why have you misbehaved with ASWJ leaders? This misbehavior will invite action from Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan).”
0303-7530267: “Tera bandobast bhi karte hain sale (We will take care of you …).”
“More than 100 other messages with vulgar language and indecent words” were received, Naqvi added. The ASWJ spokesman used threatening language, although every level best attempt was made to convince him that their news was aired as breaking tickers, the journalist went on to say.
“I think they made me target for reason that I am Shia and also that I am a journalist,” he held the view. Never in 23 years long career of journalism I was targeted by any group on religious grounds of my faith.”
Naqvi appears unsatisfied with response his channel gave to the serious situation despite the fact that Sindh Information Minister Sharjeel Memon and senior police official Khaliq Shaikh rang him up to ensure security for him. “No evidence of practical steps for the protection,” added the journalist after the he was contacted by the minister and the senior police official promising to help him out.
What worried the journalist is putting his name and cellphone number on social networking sites which may provoke any ASWJ activist to target Ansar, who approached Twitter, Facebook and other social media organizations to block websites with provocative speeches against him. “We are taking up your request,” the social networking sites responded to the journalist’s request.