Monday, October 25, 2010

The Continuously Intriguing Media

It's getting so that even reporting on people changing jobs in the media has become risky business. As in, risky for one's credibility. Even though we do rely on very good sources before putting the information out here.

The latest U-turn (and believe us, it is a U-turn) is morning show star Dr Shahista Wahidi's announcement today on ARY that the news of her departure from the channel is simply rumour and not based on fact. Yes, Dr Wahidi, tell that to Geo which had bade Nadia Khan farewell and was having your new show's set designed. Obviously, this can only mean that ARY has upped the ante even further than the 22 lakhs a month Geo had offered Wahidi to lure her. Some people have all the luck, particularly at channels where many complain of not being paid their far more meagre salaries on time.

It was precisely because of this pendulum style of job negotiations that we had held off on reporting about The News senior investigative journalist Rauf Klasra's potential move from the Jang Group to the Express Media Group, which he himself had threatened many times earlier and which we had actually known about for some time. But now that the daily Express itself has confirmed it, we can add to it the reasons for it beyond the lure of a better pay packet.

In fact, Klasra had been rather unhappy at the Jang Group for quite some time. The official reason that Klasra is apparently now giving is his unhappiness with the, in his opinion, 'agenda-driven anti-government line of the Jang Group.' (It must be remembered that Klasra is known to be quite friendly with Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, who is from his hometown, Multan, and who it is believed is sometimes himself the source for some of Klasra's stories.) The upset with the excesses of the Jang Group may well be true, but it is also true that Klasra has been at daggers drawn with some of his colleagues at the Islamabad bureau of The News, particularly with the Editor Investigations Ansar Abbasi and his junior Ahmad Noorani, whom he accuses of constantly maligning and undermining him.

The rivalry between the three truly came out into the open last year when the website ran a story about Klasra's alleged corruption in receiving favours from the government in the allocation of plots and government housing for his (government employee) wife and relatives, claims Klasra strenuously denied. Klasra believed the story was instigated by the Nawaz Sharif camp to discredit him in retaliation for stories he had done about the Sharifs' alleged corruption and maladministration and claimed in a Jang column in September 2009 to have served a legal notice for 100 million pounds on the website (we have no idea what became of it). But more than that he also saw the direct connivance of Abbasi and Noorani in what he termed a 'smear campaign' against him. (Noorani, who most believe says things and writes stories at Abbasi's behest, even weighed in publicly against Klasra.) Things became so bitter at the Islamabad bureau that Mir Shakilur Rahman did one of his trademark organizational fudges to calm things down: he removed Klasra from under Abbasi and gave him a made-up title of Editor Reporting, reporting directly to the Editor. (Incidentally, the current Editor of The News Rawalpindi, Mohammad Mallick, supported Klasra in his fight against pkpolitics, which makes eminent sense since pkpolitics had also run a story earlier about Mallick's alleged corruption.)

But things continued to simmer and came to a head last month when Klasra ran two stories on September 28 and September 30. The first of these claimed that "backdoor channels played a key role" in defusing a crisis between the government and the judiciary. Bizarrely, the newspaper carried another story side-by-side with this, from "our correspondent" (code for Abbasi / Noorani) quoting Supreme Court sources debunking Klasra's story. (The Jang Group must have the only newspapers in the world that carry two diametrically opposite 'investigative' stories on the same day.) In fact, the Supreme Court exerted so much pressure for a retraction that The News published an "unconditional and sincere apology" on September 30. However, since Klasra was adamant about his story (insider sources say he told management he was willing to go to jail for it if need be) the apology was published from the editor, printer and publisher. No journalist appreciates a management that refuses to stand by its reporter and apparently Klasra was incensed that the apology was published despite his standing by his story. In fact, he blamed Abbasi for goading the management into publishing the apology and even hit out publicly at Abbasi on a Dunya TV programme later.

The second story Klasra published on September 30, claimed that President Zardari had admitted in an internal Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) meeting that he had been "misled" into not defending in court the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) by some unnamed "players of the game." Klasra further cited "one insider source" to claim that Zardari may have been referring to a well-respected but unnamed former judge from Karachi. Once again, two days later Ahmad Noorani published a story claiming that Justice (retd) Fakhruddin G. Ebrahim denied the "president's defamatory allegations" and mocking Klasra for defaming him. This was another bizarre rebuttal since Klasra had never actually named anyone in his story. It is also obvious from the story that Ebrahim had been goaded into offering a rebuttal, as if he was the only respected retired judge in Karachi.

These two instances of direct undermining by colleagues were apparently the straw that broke the camel's back, leading Klasra to finally say enough is enough. For whatever it's worth, Klasra has often broken some interesting stories at The News / Jang and his departure will certainly leave the Jang Group poorer in the investigative department. The Jang Group will also miss his contacts within the government since Abbasi and Noorani have already been accused by the PPP of running one-sided stories. Klasra, whose recently published book Ek Siyaasat, Kayee Kahaniyaan [One Politics, Many Stories] has already become a best-seller, may be on a high at the moment, but it remains to be seen how well he adjusts to a new organizational culture at the Express Media Group.

Meanwhile, Aaj TV continues its blood-letting of staff after the departure of Syed Talat Hussain for Dawn and DawnNews. More staff have been fired from the Islamabad bureau, leading others to wonder just exactly what Aaj's management has in mind for the channel.


Alpha Za said...

wow. Interesting move for Klasra which should add some much needed depth to Express's reporting. But now, Express get's the tag of being the PPP paper....not that Benazir Today isn't flying off the shelves like it's nobodies business.

Anonymous said...

A main-stream liberal left urdu newspaper is badly missing in an otherwise populist right-wing dominated the urdu press. "Express" has the potential of filling that void. But than "Express" would have to entice the likes of ailing Munno Bhai and get rid of known Nasim-Hijazi-ittes like Oriya Maqbool Jan and Javed Ch.

AI said...

I think it was very much on the cards. where Ansar Abbasi and Ahmed Noorani are key suppliers of stories like the infamous Nazir Naji tapes was the start of the simmering tensions. The Ansar Abbasi gang has made a number of journalists against them including Malick, Mahmood Shaam Sahab and others. The Karachi based journalists are already dead against the over projection Ansar Abbasi and his gang get.

Anyways, better to leave the real yellow journalists at Jang in one pool!

AI said...
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Anonymous said...

The differences go beyond 2 stories. It is a clash of ideologies. Mr. Klasra is opposed to the right wing 'ghairat lobby' (that came into full action when the Kerry Lugar bill was passed) wheras Mr. Ansar and Co are it staunch supporters.
Mr. Klasra will be oppsed for his liberal ideas, as long as he stays, by the right wing lobby in Jang group spearheaded by Mr. Ansar Abbasi. Anyone who works in Jang group would know that. Mr. Klasra can't do much about it as the right wing. populist mindset is just too strong in the urdu print media. Every voice of moderation faces the same resistance in the Urdu print media.

Anonymous said...

Finally. For better or for worse Express has a heavyweight reporting name.
Things are getting interesting in print too...

adam said...
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adam said...

I agree with one of the my friends as to we direly need a left leaning newspaper to counter the overwhelming outpouring of rightist nonsense specially on the editorial pages,lot of irrationality and obscurantism is being promoted by the rightwing sheisty hypocrites.

Anonymous said...

Everyone here is accusing Ansar Abbasi and his right wing ideology. Was the Dogar daughter story promoting a right wing ideology? Was his story on the GHQ awarding enormous amount of land to Fazlur Rehman in DI Khan part of the right wing agenda? The story goes on and on. As for Rauf Klasra, I can only request the Author of this blog, since he knows how to do this: Filter Klasra's stories on the Law Ministry, his deep throat is Babar Awan. THw way he praises awan is disgusting. And Babar Awan in an interview called Rauf Klasra a "GEM OF A JOURNALIST"

Anonymous said...

In agreement with the ^anonymous comment. Stop categorizing people in right/left boxes... as if the PPP was a revolutionary party headed by a Che Guevara

AI said...

@Anonymous October 25, 2010 9:24 PM

Was farah dogar the only girl in Pakistan who got extra marks to get into medical college?
Was Fazlur Rehman the only person who got lands from GHQ?
Wasnt the CJ's son unduly favored? At the end of the day it is not a matter of fact, but how much fiction is created by Ansar Abbasi and his gang

Anonymous said...

Traveling to earthquake-ravaged northern Pakistan last Thanksgiving, Angelina Jolie, then 30, boarded a private plane for the 20-plus-hour journey from Los Angeles without a single Louis Vuitton suitcase in sight. Instead, the actress-activist-object of Brad Pitt’s affection grabbed a lightweight field bag and, as she usually does, packed the bare minimum: one Pakistani dress and head cover (to honor local custom); one pair of sturdy boots (for mountain climbing to distribute blankets and food).

For the three nights she was in the field, Jolie – who was accompanied by Pitt, then 43, but left kids Maddox, then 4, and Zahara, then 16 months, back in town – was her typical low-maintenance self, sleeping on the frozen ground in a tent shared with three other workers and wearing the same clothes day after day. No hairbrush. No makeup. Not even a toothbrush. “She really blends in and is very unassuming,” says Guenet Guebre-Christos, representative in Pakistan for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, for which Jolie serves as a goodwill ambassador. “She could have passed for any other Pakistani person.”

Copper said...

wow, what a criteria to support evil doers. By the same criteria, you can write Is Zardari only one who is corrupt? Is Babar Awan only one who has false degree? and so on. Everyone would get a clean chit. superb!

Anonymous said...

Pakistan ’s media seems to be the only segment of society at the
moment that is prospering. The media personnel have gone ecstatic over
the current political climate in the country. Each and every single
day they sit in their kiosks and start bullying the helpless
politicians with their sarcastic remarks. They are the champions of
democracy, yet they are the ones trying their utmost to bring about
the failure of the government at all costs. They should realise their
responsibilities and step back from their role of kingmakers. Please
back off and send some positive messages. I have no connection with
the PPP; I am a simple and humble citizen who feels threatened that
his fellow citizens are in despair due to the media mafia.