Special Assistant to Prime Minister (SAPM) on Information and Broadcasting Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan has said the government should not be linked with the action taken by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) with regard to the arrest of Jang/Geo Group owner Mir Shakilur Rehman, or Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority’s (PEMRA) reported action against the media outlet.
With the media outlet waging war on the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government, alleging that the “fake case” against its editor-in-chief was rooted in Prime Minister (PM) Imran Khan’s “personal vendetta against Geo and its owner”, and that the developments from earlier this week had “exposed the unholy alliance between the government and NAB”, the mouthpiece of the government has clarified the situation.
“The government had nothing to do with the matter while the NAB was an independent body and unnecessary propaganda was being made against the government,” Dr Firdous said Friday, emphasising that the PTI government believed in freedom of media and actions taken by the anti-graft body or the media watchdog should not be viewed as otherwise.
Dr Firdous contended that none was a “sacred cow” and it was unfair to target the government for this, while PM Imran had waged a struggle for the rule of law and supremacy of the Constitution for the last 22 years. She said some people were treating the law as their personal commodity and added that the government had to present its position, as she alleged a “one-sided picture” was being painted by the media house.
“We came to know about his [Rehman] arrest through media,” the SAPM said, adding that a person belonging to the media fraternity had filed a complaint against another individual while the government had nothing to do with it. The government, she said, believed strongly in media freedom and was geared up to remove any hurdle in its way.
Dr Firdous was of the view that Geo should also present the government’s point of view as well as of NAB and reiterated that the government was not a party in this case.
She said that the government considered media as its partner and hailed Jang/Geo Group’s independent editorial policies. Praising the group’s unbiased analyses on the government’s policies, she said, “We take guidance from them.”
Defending the government, she said that Jang and Geo Media Group was a media organisation and how could the government lock its horns with it, saying the Group was not the government’s political rival.
“Dispel this perception! You are a media house, what enmity could the government have with you. You are not a political entity. You are not our political enemy. You are an independent media house and we understand that remaining that way is your strength,” she noted.
Asked about Imran Khan’s repeated statements: ‘Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman, I shall see you’ and was not the Thursday’s action with reference to this, she said that those had been made when he (MSR) had come out of the apex court and said that journalism was not his only business: it was just one part.
She said, “We are looking at him from two angles: as the head of a media organisation and as a businessman. This case has been made not because he is the owner of a media house but because he is a businessman. The issue is that of the allotment of 54 plots from the then chief minister.” “NAB provided questionnaires in this regard to which he was unable to respond and based on which he was arrested. The Group should not associate such actions with the government. They should not show just one side of the picture,” she emphasised.
Dr Firdous contended that it was unfair to term his arrest a part of revenge tactics by the government for his media house’s stance and said to call this revenge or to say this was carried out according to the government’s wishes was unfair and unjust and that every person had the right to prove his innocence in the face of allegations levelled against him.
“Allegations are made every day and politicians, bureaucrats and others also face cases, but after these allegations are made, evidence is produced in the court, and both sides are given the chance to present evidence supporting their stance and then announces a just decision on the basis of facts,” she said.
She emphasised that truth would prevail in this case, and added that Prime Minister Imran Khan had worked hard towards strengthening institutions and making them independent, which were previously in a bad shape.
Dr Firdous claimed that under the prime minister’s governance, institutions were working freely. However, after the arrest, to continuously say the government had killed press freedom and to connect these two things, and to use a watchdog to push an agenda against the government goes against the principles of journalism.
“We expect NAB to present evidence in the court on the basis of which it arrested MSR so that this move can be justified in the eyes of the law and the Constitution. In the same way, we expect him and the analysts and journalists from his media house to submit evidence to the court attesting to his innocence instead of attacking the government and becoming themselves a court,” she said.
She contended the courts were free and independent and then asked did the rest of the people arrested by NAB had the right to have discussions on media channels this way or have debates about the case, and pressurise investigation officers.