Within 24 hours spanning 8 and 9 September 2015, two media workers were killed in three targeted attacks. The first victim Arshad Ali Jaffery was working as a DSNG Engineer with Geo news and the second victim Aftab Alam was a former employee of the organisation. These attacks were simply continuation of a trend that shows that Geo and Jang group is the most targeted media group in Pakistan.
These attacks on Jang group have taken various shapes – reporters from Geo, Jang and The News have been abducted, harassed and targeted. During 2015 in addition to the journalists killed, Geo Karachi’s Bureau Chief Faheem Siddiqui was picked up and faced harassment. Previously, employees of the group have been abducted and beaten up. In addition to physical threats to its team, Geo has also faced continued threats to its operations. Following the attack on senior journalist Hamid Mir in April 2014 and its subsequent coverage, Geo faced the wrath of establishment and PEMRA and its transmission was suspended across Pakistan.
The group has also suffered from hate speech and accusations of blasphemy levelled by anchors at a rival channel against morning show host Shaista Wahidi and Jang group owner Mir Shakeel ur Rehman. The accusations of blasphemy were followed by a sustained online hate campaign, that further endangered the lives of those associated with the channel.
Threats to Geo originate from various quarters. There have been accusations of state institutions being involved in certain incidents, extremist groups including the TTP have levelled threats against the group and at times, rival media groups have also added to the hate by broadcasting inciting campaigns against the groups.
These targeted attacks against one media group has serious implications for freedom of expression in Pakistan
All those who have followed the evolution of Pakistani media industry will recognise that Geo News holds its own place in the larger media landscape – It was the first private news channel that spoke to us – it remained the most influential source of news and views for a long time before the industry became saturated with new and varied news channels. Geo is also one of the very few channels that is owned and operated by a purely media group as opposed to most other channels that have been established as an addendum of existing businesses.
Within this context, the attacks of Geo News take on a new light. The trend of targeting one media group more persistently than others has to be taken as a threat to larger freedom of expression and democratic values in the country. At this time, it is important that the media itself, comes together and remains united in support against those targeting media workers, be it from any group, rival or otherwise. Without such unity, the future looks bleak for journalism and media industry in Pakistan.
Image Source: Geo News
*** See below graphics for details: