Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Hamid Mir Violates Ethics and the Law

I am no great admirer of former minister Sheeda Tully aka Sheikh Rashid Ahmed, he of Lal Haveli and the newly formed Awami Muslim League fame. But I have to say I was as outraged as him over what happened tonight.

Sheeda Tully aka Sheikh Rashid Ahmed

Keep in mind that the man is contesting for a bye-election in NA-55, his own constituency in Rawalpindi, a seat he won 6 times in a row until 2008 when he was trounced in an anti-Musharraf wave. Two years on, the seat was declared second-time empty when the PML(N) MNA 'Haji' Pervez Khan was disqualified for cheating in an examination (Haji Pervez - who obviously did not absorb much spiritual rectitude from his hajj experience - won the first bye-election earlier when the original winner Makhdoom Javed Hashmi of the PML(N) vacated the seat in favour of another constituency). Tully's main contender in the elections this time is the PML(N)'s Malik Shakeel Awan, a grassroots party worker without much name recognition but who has the entire PML(N) heavyweight leadership at his back.

The polls take place a few hours from now. According to the Election Commission rules, the campaigning officially ended at midnight between Monday and Tuesday, a rule enforced to calm voters down after the rhetoric of campaigning. So what happens?

Enter Mr Hamid Mir of Geo's Capital Talk. He proceeds to dedicate his whole programme to ridiculing and discrediting Sheikh Rashid, in what can only be termed a blatant attempt to influence the outcome of the polls. In addition to dredging up Tully's connections with the Chaudhries of Gujarat, General Musharraf and Asif Zardari - obviously calculated to refresh them in voters' minds - he also takes "expert" analysis from third raters like Irfan Siddiqui and Jang Pindi's magazine editor Farooq Aqdas. Not only that, he takes vox pops from a random selection of people in one market as well as the opinion of, of all people, 'Maulana' Abdul Aziz of Lal Masjid and fleeing-in-a-burqa fame, all of whom berate Tully as a 'lota', as 'dishonest' and as a 'killer of innocents'.

Now, I don't know if anyone else noted that Irfan Siddiqui was sitting with the top leadership of the PML(N) when the party recently met for an internal meeting. Little wonder then that Tully blew his top later on the Geo news bulletin, accusing Siddiqui and Hamid Mir of being on Nawaz Sharif's payroll, the programme of being "paid for" by the PML(N) and Geo of stabbing him in the back.

I will come to my point later. Here are the clips of the entire programme, if you have the patience:


Clip 1 in which Mir sets the tone for the programme with some selective clips of Nawaz Sharif and Sheikh Rashid from their rallies, and of Sheikh Rashid and Imran Khan in a 2005 programme in which Imran calls Rashid a "lota" (turncoat).





Clip 2 in which Farooq Aqdas calls Rashid "siyaasi taur pe bad-ehd aur bay-wafa aadmi" (politically a traitorous man), makes fun of the assassination attempt against him, and reminds the PPP worker of Tully's anti-PPP venom. Mir then adds a few clips showing Tully praising Musharraf...





Clip 3 in which Mir runs some two dozen vox pops, two-thirds of them against Sheikh Rashid (with people calling him a "lota" and dishonest and accusing him of being responsible for the killings in Lal Masjid) and including at least four anti-Tully people repeated more than once. To his credit, one of Mir's studio guests, Humayun Gauhar, calls out Mir's approach as the "target killing" of Sheikh Rashid...





Clip 4 in which Humayun Gauhar dismisses the selective targeting of Rashid without a contextualization of the larger political scenario...





Clip 5 in which Mir plays a clip of Mullah Abdul Aziz of Lal Masjid moaning about Rashid not having apologized to him (for what, one might question) and of how he has not received compensation yet (he should be compensated?!?) and Farooq Aqdas is called on to accuse Rashid of wearing Gucci clothes and smoking Havana cigars, i.e. being elitist. Then Aqdas and Gauhar get into a bit of a tussle over the credibility of Mullah Aziz and Mir wraps up by pretending to be neutral.






Now. Whatever one may think of Sheikh Rashid, this was a one-sided, deliberately vindictive and unfairly selective character assassination of one contestant in an election. More importantly, it was done in a sensitive period when campaigning on the behalf of anyone is prohibited, no campaigner is allowed to make public appearances or pronouncements and was obviously calculated to rig public opinion. Whether PEMRA takes note of the obvious bias in the programme or not, surely the attempt to rig an election calls for the Election Commission and, dare one say, the Supreme Court, to take notice.

Whether Hamid Mir did this programme because Sheikh Rashid's victory would put a stumbling block in Geo's attempts to oust Zardari or whether he actually indulged in financially corrupt media practices, I cannot say. However, I think there is a strong case for Hamid Mir and his programme to be taken off air for a while as punishment and for Geo to be fined and prosecuted.

19 comments:

Umair Javed said...

'However, I think there is a strong case for Hamid Mir and his programme to be taken off air for a while as punishment and for Geo to be fined and prosecuted.'

Aameen....4 nafal shukraanay if this actually happens

Anonymous said...

Shocking. I am going out there and voting for Sh Rashid just to spite Hamid Mir and Geo. Only problem is that I live in Karachi...

efff said...

This is not all Javed Ch. at Express did a similar program last night (not live, it was recorded earlier) in which Imran Khan & Sh. Rasheed both were invited. Javed was not that biased against Sh. but still he gave him quite a few punches below the belt.

Anonymous said...

Absolutely agree with you, Pyala. I saw that episode and it was a no-holds-barred attack on Tully saheb. It was a terrible, terrible sight watching Geo behaving like it was PML(N)'s inhouse channel using the most undemocratic and downright obscene ways to make sure people voted for the PML-N candidate and reject Tully.
But why blame Hamid only. It's the whole damn channel that's been trying to play God.

waqar said...

waqar! it was disgusting and stark display of worst kind of media baising. as for sure now after watching this programme.my vote straight goes for sh rasheed. hates of to hammayun gohar for candidly and darely terming it tgt killing of sh rashid.i m sure hamid mir and the other bastards of his kind i.e irfan sadiqi and farooq have got mouthful of dg bones. GEO BAGHIR ETHICS KE SAATH

Ahsan said...

I'm pretty sure the "strong case" for kicking Hamid Mir off the air existed well-before this sorry episode and will continue to exist well after.

Anonymous said...

This biased attitude is absolutely unacceptable. Especially taking the version of Maulana Abdul Aziz on the matter was a big joke. We all remember how the famous maulana tried to escape wearing a burqa while his younger brother (regardless of whatever he stood for) bravely accepted the death. Hats off to Gauhar for reminding Mir he was 'target-killing' Sheikh

Tabinda said...

I wonder what has become of Geo's Quality Check (previewing of the show before airing)... I mean no anchor would do a character assasination like this without any agenda... for the first time Sheikh Rasheed is gathering genuine (at least verbal) support from people. And Irfan Siddiquie has a radical tilt towards PML-N ... i think he's on their pay roll... and i hated Nawaz's speech "ye Sheikh aur Awan ka election nahe tha YE ALI BABA AUR 40 CHOR k darmiyan muqabla tha"

nota said...

And what was truly in bad taste was them focusing their cameras on Sheikh Rasheed smoking a cigar (before his conceding speech) and their playing some old songs.

nota said...

Regarding "dhandhli", I think Sheikh had a point. See http://www.dawn.com/wps/wcm/connect/dawn-content-library/dawn/the-newspaper/national/12-procedural-irregularities-in-bypolls-witnessed-report-520--bi-03

Akmal Khan said...

can you believe, i saw that episode and just after 15 minutes of the show I was so upset at Hamid Mir. Finally he showed his real face of a yellow journalism. I changed the channel and was upset on him. It was very biased programme and Hamid Mir surely got big bucks for that programme. This also raises many questions about his past, present and future now among all his fans.

The best unbiased anchor in the current age is Talat Hussain from AAJ TV. I am not supporter of Shiekh Rashid or any other party. But I USED to like Hamir Mir. But I hate him as any other enemy of Nation. Such anchors and journalists are a shame for our nation and are the real enemies of democracy and our system.

Anonymous said...

I belong to Rawalpindi, and agree that Sheikh has been doing a lot stuff for development in Pindi. But I also agree whatever was said about his character in this programme. I think whole Pakistan already know that he is one of the biggest lota. Thouh he was not much credible earlier but he lost all of his credibility the day he joined Mushi.

Anonymous said...

honestly, who isn't a lota.

jalalHB said...

I am not amazed to see what all happened. It is the world of the victorious - the vanquished are always humiliated. Look what happened to the Germans and the Japaneses after the WW-II. Had the won, the same would have been the fate of Americans.
This is very unfortunate that we ridicule the one who has spent his steam - but doesn't everyone in some in point?
The anchors on the "independent media" are all paid reps of someone and they play whatever they are asked to. And so our our politicians, including the lost son of Pindi.

Anonymous said...

i don't hav much words for such a high charactered person like hamid meer. when his program went off-air in musharraf's regime, he started a internet campaign in which he tried to convince people to support him. at that time, i wrote him an email which he never replied. all i mentioned in his email was about his favour to american and indian, and doing program against pakistan and pakistani govt.
it will be a really great if his program goes offline. geo and all its journalists are really a cause of panic in country.

curious said...

cpm,
could you cite which law this violated?

CPM said...

@Ahsan: Agreed.

@curious:
"could you cite which law this violated?"

um, I already pointed out in the post the law I think it violated: the election commission's rules regarding campaigning after midnight the day before the polls - which have the force of law under the constitution. You are either 1) being smug or 2) a lazy ass lawyer asking me to do the legal research for you.

I am not a lawyer and don't have the time to do the research so I can't provide you the exact statute off hand but some of the powers of the EC and its provisions for the conduct of elections are given here:

http://www.ecp.gov.pk/

The prohibition by the EC of all kinds of campaigning on the midnight the day before the polls is fairly well known and is abided by all political parties (at least as far as on-ground activity is concerned). I also have little doubt in my mind that Hamid Mir's programme constituted a kind of negative campaigning, albeit disguised as 'analysis'.

The main question, in my opinion, would be, how the media's sphere of influence is seen, since the media generally has a reach beyond a particular electoral constituency but can also directly affect a particular constituency. So if electoral campaigns are prohibited after a certain time in a particular constituency, does that prohibition extend to the media as well? For whatever my two cents of common sense are worth, it should.

curious said...

CPM,
how about c) I am curious how you are applying laws governing political campaigning by parties to the media commenting on an election.

Where in the world is this done? And as a member of (I am assuming) the press, don't you think applying restrictions on campaigning to the media would be a gross violation of media freedom?

CPM said...

@curious: aah, fair enough point. But it assumes one critical factor: that the Capital Talk programme in question here was a fair comment / reportage on the election. In my opinion, it was not. The media's freedom to comment is not (or should not be) an unbridled right to campaign on behalf of or against particular individuals or parties. Or else, if they wish to do so, it should be properly labeled as such. Had Hamid Mir / Geo made clear that they were throwing in their lot with the PMLN or that he/ they had received funding for such a programme from a, b or c (if so), it would be a fair representation which viewers could then accept or discard knowing the perspective it was coming from.

However, this would still not give Mir / Geo the right to run this programme on the eve of the elections, since it would be considered part of a political campaign. As an analogy, let's assume the PMLN was running an attack ad on tv against Sh Rashid. Should paid political advertisements (which are always identified as such in the West) not fall under the umbrella of 'political campaigning'? Would the EC's rules against any campaigning just prior to the election, not apply to such advertisements?

Btw, yes I am a member of the press but one who believes there is such a thing as responsible journalism. I do not subscribe to the idea of absolute freedom of the press (which in any case does not exist).