We'd held off on posting about the changes at Express TV and Dunya TV - even though it has been some time now - in order to confirm the exact circumstances that led to Express TV's News Director Fahd Husain resigning and moving to Dunya. But there are still a few details that have eluded us. So, we're posting in the hope that one of our illustrious readers can fill them in.
The basics of the change that we have been able to confirm are as follows: About a month ago, Express TV ran a story by its reporter Imran Khan which painted a particular Lahore policeman in none-too-flattering light. The policeman had been caught on tape doing something (we're not quite sure whether it involved torturing a suspect or accepting a bribe, we haven't been able to get a copy of the report) which threatened his career prospects. Unknown to the reporter and the rest of the staff at Express, the said policeman was a relative of Abbas Athar, the editor of Urdu Daily Express and the titular overall head at the Express TV channels. Some of you may know the veteran journalist Abbas Athar, who co-hosts his own programme Kaalamkaar on Express TV and is also the person responsible for coining (as a sub-editor) the infamous "Idhar Hum Udhar Tum" line for a newspaper heading, commonly and mistakenly attributed to Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.
In any case, once the report began airing on Express TV, the aforementioned policeman called up his kin at the channel beseeching him to have the report stopped. Abbas Athar then called the News Director Husain, asking him to have the report killed. To his credit, Husain refused, citing the irrefutable proof contained in the footage. Having tried other avenues as well to block the report from further broadcast, Athar then in a fit of pique wrote out his resignation and went home. The report continued airing the whole day.
Subsequent events are more murky. According to one source, Lakson Group head honcho Sultan Lakhani then stepped in and tried to get Athar to change his mind and even ordered Husain to go to Athar's house to apologize and placate the veteran. This version of events is denied by Husain himself and other sources who say no apologies were involved. There are also claims that Dunya TV had already been courting both Athar and Husain before this fiasco and saw in it a perfect opportunity to step in. According to one source, a Dunya TV car was parked outside Athar's house for two days after news of events reached the outside world.
However events actually transpired, the end result of the power struggle at Express TV was that Husain ended up resigning (according to some, he was forced to resign as a compromise) and moving to Dunya TV as its Director News, while Abbas Athar rescinded his own resignation and is now back at Express. The entire drama did not take longer than one or two days.
Internally, staffers at Express TV were told that Husain had been asked to choose between his current affairs show Centre Stage and his administrative job as Director News because the latter had been suffering while the ratings of his show had also apparently gone down. As of yet, Husain does not have his own show at Dunya though he did make his first appearance on air as co-anchor during the breaking news about General Kayani's extension of service.
No news on what, if anything, happened to Mr Athar's compromised relative. I guess, if this proves anything, it is that the 'independence of the media' only goes so far.
P.S.: We would be happy to update this post if any of our readers have something substantial to add. You may also email us with details or proof if you would rather retain your anonymity.