Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Curious Case of the 'Concocted' Confession

Imagine my surprise when Monday night I saw a news item on Geo which began with the anchors heaping scorn on the Indian media for following in the footsteps of the English media in trying to 'unfairly attack' Pakistani cricketers. According to Geo, Indian media had "fabricated" a new story about Pakistan cricket and was now claiming that Mohammad Amir, Pakistan's teenage fast-bowling sensation implicated in the recent spot-fixing scandal and subsequently suspended by the International Cricket Council (ICC) pending investigations, had accepted his involvement in the scandal and blamed former captain Salman Butt (also suspended) for leading him astray. The Geo report questioned the credibility of the "Indian media" report that Amir might, in fact, turn approver against Butt by showing footage of Amir moving around with Butt after his return to Pakistan and commented that the footage of their chumminess contradicted the claims by the Indian media.

Here's the story as it appeared in the evening's 9 o' clock news. Watch from 05:42.

So why was I surprised? Because I had read the news item the Geo report was snarkily referring to and condemning, and it was no Indian media where I had read it. In fact, it was an exclusive report on Sunday in Geo's sister Jang Group concern, The News. This is what The News' credible sports reporter Khalid Hussain had published a day earlier:

"Just a couple of days after ‘spot-fixing’ allegations were levelled at him and two other Pakistan players, a teary-eyed Mohammad Amir went to the team management and spilled the beans on Salman Butt — Pakistan’s Test captain. Sources told ‘The News’ on Saturday that the 18-year-old fast bowler told team manager Yawar Saeed and Shahid Afridi, Pakistan’s one-day captain, that he was innocent and just got involved in the scandal because of Salman Butt.

According to the sources, some of Pakistan’s senior players saw Amir meeting with Afridi. The allrounder later took the youngster to Yawar Saeed and three discussed the issue for some time at the team hotel. “Amir told the team management that he wasn’t aware of the gravity of the situation and also claimed that he just followed Butt’s instructions,” said a well-placed source.
Sources said that Amir told Afridi and Yawar that he didn’t even know Mazhar Majeed and was introduced to him by Salman Butt. “Amir told Afridi as well as the team manager that he was completely unaware of what was going on. He asked them to help him get out of the mess,” said the source."

Why on earth would Geo pretend it was an Indian media report? And why would they attack and undercut their own group's newspaper report? Was this some bizarre decision to spin a damaging report (and if so, on whose prompting)? Or did it mean that nobody at Geo bothers to read even their own group's newspapers?

The sarcastic report continued to be broadcast all evening and soon other channels - such as Express - also picked up the thread and joined in. The next morning, Geo Super in its own sports headlines too began to attack Indian media for its biases and even showed the offending report in the Times of India (TOI, incidentally, the Jang Group's partner in the floundering Amn Ki Asha project).

A screen-grab of the Times of India report

The TOI report is actually a Press Trust of India (PTI) wire agency report. And then the penny dropped for me (only partially though, as you will see later). Illiterate oafs that Geo sports editors are, I surmised, they had obviously either not read Khalid Hussain's exclusive or failed to connect the fact that the PTI report was probably simply picking up the report in The News.

But there was a problem: even though the PTI report was obviously written more than 12 hours a day after Hussain's report was published, there were some discrepancies between the two reports. For one, the PTI report never cited The News' report as its source and, in fact, claimed slightly different 'facts' regarding Amir's alleged confession. In particular, the PTI report claimed Amir had confessed to Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) Chairman Ijaz Butt rather than one-day team captain Shahid Afridi and manager Yawar Saeed, as Hussain had written.

Here is the original PTI wire report with all its header info intact (which a source has kindly provided us):


Aamir's shocker: Butt lured me into spot-fixing, Saeed resigns

     Karachi, Sep 27 (PTI) Barely five days after the end of their scandal-hit tour of England, fresh turmoil today gripped the Pakistan cricket team with suspended pacer Mohammad Aamir's shocking revelation that he was lured into spot-fixing by Test skipper Salman Butt.
     On a day when team manager Yawar Saeed stepped down from his post, the Pakistan Cricket Board was left to do more firefighting in the spot-fixing scandal with the latest revelation.
     The 18-year-old left-arm pacer was suspended by the ICC for his alleged involvement in spot-fixing during the fourth Test against England at Lord's last month, along with Butt and Mohammad Asif.
     Sources in the PCB said Aamir had told chairman Ijaz Butt that he never wanted to be part of this "business" (spot fixing) but was forced into it by Butt and Asif.
     "Aamir had gone to Butt and claimed he was innocent and a victim of the "seniors power lobby" in the team," a source told PTI.
     But the PCB refuted the reports with legal adviser Tafazzul Rizvi saying that the implicated players continue to claim innocence.
     "All three boys have been saying all along that they did not do anything wrong and they stand by it. They claim innocence and complete innocence and nothing but innocence. We are holding our investigations back at the moment and we are waiting for the Scotland Yard's investigation report," he said.
     Another source revealed that Aamir, regarded as one of Pakistan cricket's most promising young talent, had told Saeed about the pressure being exerted on him by Butt.
     "Aamir's claim is that he just did what he was told to do. He is claiming innocence now and says he didn't even know Mazhar Majeed was introduced to him by Butt and Asif," the source said.
     Quite a few former Test captains, and even Pakistan's former President, Pervez Musharraf, have urged the ICC to show leniency towards Aamir, all of 18 and the quickest to take 50 wickets in Test cricket.
     But chief selector Mohsin Khan said that he didn't agree with the viewpoint that Aamir should be shown leniency because of his age.
     "I don't buy this argument because if you can do something wrong at 18, you can keep on doing it later as well. If these three players are found guilty they should be punished, including Aamir," Mohsin said.
     The chief selector insisted that no cricketer was indispensable and there should be no compromise on discipline and commitment towards your team and country.
     "Aamir must be punished if he is guilty. I just hope that that these three are eventually cleared because they have already damaged the reputation of Pakistan cricket and the country," Mohsin said. PTI CORR AH PM MRM PDS

First of all, note that the report was filed in the evening of September 27th (at 1847 hours, as evidenced from the filing time at the bottom), whereas Hussain's story was obviously written on September 26th 25th for it to be published on the morning of September 27th 26th. Mighty strange that a supposed exclusive appears on the wires more than a full day after an exclusive on the same exact subject appears in the national papers. Generally, wire agencies will not carry such a story as an exclusive if the news has already been broken earlier.

Secondly, note that whereas Khalid Hussain's piece cites specifics of Amir's confession, the PTI story does not and only cites "PCB sources", one of whom (the legal counsel) actually completely contradicts the assertions. As it is, the only possible sources of Hussain's story, as is obvious from the specifics of the report itself, could be only either Amir, Shahid Afridi or Yawar Saeed, which give it far more credibility. Our sources confirm that Hussain's source was, in fact, Afridi himself. The PTI story, on the other hand, seems to have been an unethical plagiarism of Hussain's story, further embellished and distorted to seem like an original piece of reporting.

But it gets far more interesting. Please note that the dateline on the PTI story is Karachi. That is to say, this report was not "concocted" in India, but rather written / "concocted" by PTI's correspondent in Karachi. So a Pakistani journalist actually wrote the PTI story but yet Geo attacked the Indian media for making up stories about Pakistan cricket. That's not the end of the bizarreness. According to our extremely well-informed sources, guess who moonlights as the PTI's sports correspondent in Karachi? The venerable sports reporter Waheed Khan, that's who.

 Waheed Khan on a Geo Super programme

Waheed Khan was not only Karachi sports editor Khalid Hussain's predecessor at The News but is also currently a senior staffer at Geo Super and apparently responsible for the content of Geo Super's bulletins. (Incidentally, Khan also covers sports for Reuters but the story never ran on that wire agency.) He is one of the 'big guns' of sports journalism in Pakistan and has done some stellar reporting work in the past, especially during the match-fixing saga of the 1990s. It seems, however, that this time his professional jealousy at Hussain's exclusive seems to have got the better of him. According to sources, he and Hussain are not on the best of terms either, mainly because Khan has been attempting to get a foothold again at The News as well, which would impact Hussain's position.

So, in effect, a Jang Group staffer first (surreptitiously) put out an "exclusive" that, in all probability, was simply an embellishment on another Jang Group staffer's real exclusive (even if it was not, it wasn't an exclusive by any stretch of the imagination since it had been beaten to the finish line by more than 24 hours). And when that faux exclusive was picked up in the most roundabout way by his own Jang Group organization (which obviously does not bother to read Jang Group newspapers), he helped or at least supervised its on-air demolition on Jang Group channels as an example of a fabricated story by Indian sources.

If that doesn't make your head spin, I don't know what will.


Anonymous said...

why has all the media, blogs especially, deliberately chosen to ignore the case of the woman getting stoned to death,whose video was shown on monday night on just one of the news channels & that too late at night when not many would have watched it. It happened in pakistan
& the ghairat brigade ought to have watched it,how the woman’s ghairat was restored by the rocks pummelling her to her death.
i think payala should have covered it.

Magnum said...

Can someone stone Geo? Please.
90% of the time it goes on bullshiting, but with the kind of smug expression that suggests that only they alone know the 'truth.'

I mean, really, Azhar Abbas and MSR, what on earth are they on? And Waheed too now.

Ah, the things Geo/Jang can do to people. Just look at Talat Aslam.
A Razia surrounded by fascist ghoondas at The News/Jang/Geo.


And, oh, before I forget, Aafia is innocent. Geo said so.

Alpha Za said...

God, I wish we had more sports channels. This is fucking riddiculous bat shit crazy stuff.

How did they forget to blame Israel for this one?

Anonymous said...

@Anon (8.45AM) are you talking about,

TLW said...

Uh, I honestly don't know about the woman being stoned, but I am acutely aware about the entry of Western forces into FATA. It is possible that CPM may have selected this newsclip cause the first two and a half minutes begin with the attack ointo Pakistan by NATO helicopters, but could someone on the blogs address this weird testing of our borders as well? After all we pay so much for such a large "externally oriented" defence complex, maybe it should do it's stated job as well?

Anonymous said...

Damn..i am seriously confused now...

Anonymous said...

Wats the deal with Nadia khan show?

Newton said...

I wonder what's his agenda. Not very clear. Unless he is trying to prove khalid is a party to indian misinformation. strange. And don't you know already that people at Jang group don't read their own papers?

Anonymous said...

@9.49: apparently geo has taken back the morning show from nadia khan after she showed belle dancing on her arabian nights show during ramadan. rumour is, shaista wahidi has left ary and will be taking over nadia khan's spot. meanwhile, sana tariq may also be on her way out from hum tv.

Anonymous said...

@12:43 I don't know about the other claims but shaista is regularly hosting her show and even had aisam ul haq just last week. Nadias show is on repeat.