This is not the first time that Geo News has let the nation down
Jang Group is the oldest media house of Pakistan and trend setter in many aspects that define current media culture of Pakistan. But throughout the last decade, it has received criticism from successive governments, military and public for pursuing an anti Pakistan agenda.
A lot has been written about GEO’s recent ISI bashing after the attack on Senior journalist Hamid Meer. GEO news has backtracked from its earlier stance that ISI should be punished for the attack and heads must roll and many of its anchors are now calling the 8 hours ISI bashing as ‘editorial judgement’ and ‘personal opinions’ rather than channel’s policy to malign the defence institutions of Pakistan.
One should always give the accused the benefit of doubt and accept timely apologies. But in case of Jang Group and its channel GEO News, we see a history of wrong reporting that has harmed the national interest of Pakistan.
In 2007, Pakistan’s most popular leader and former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto was martyred in Rawalpindi. TTP’s head at that time Bait Ulah Mehsud had threatened to kill Benazir Bhutto if she came to Pakistan and hence the perception throughout the world was that the attack was done by TTP. But a program was aired on GEO News where hints were given that ISI or Pakistan army could be behind the attack. As Benazir Bhutto was a leader of international stature, this claim was bound to make headlines in international media and Pakistani army was widely criticized even before the investigations had been done. Later, TTP was indeed found behind the attack (according to investigations by PPP government). Geo News never apologized for wrongly blaming the armed forces for the attack.
The 2008 Mumbai attacks were twelve coordinated shooting and bombing terrorist attacks lasting four days across Mumbai, India's largest city. At least 164 victims (civilians and security personnel) and nine attackers were killed in the attacks. Among the dead were 28 foreign nationals from 10 countries. As expected, this resulted in hue and cry all over the world and fingers were immediately pointed by Indian government and media towards Pakistan, even before the investigations had begun.
As a state policy, Pakistan denied any role in the attack and refused to acknowledge that the attackers were from Pakistan. While this was the hottest story in the world media and Pakistan was already being blamed on mere speculations, GEO News went one step ahead. A reporter from GEO news claimed that Ajmal Kasab (one of Mumbai attackers who had been caught alive) was from Pakistan. This story by GEO News was immediately picked up by Indian and international media and Pakistan’s title immediately changed from ‘accused’ to ‘guilty’ in the international media. This was not just irresponsible and unpatriotic news reporting by GEO News but rather unethical and false reporting as other channels later found that the news story was a hoax. The story damaged Pakistan’s reputation in world beyond repair and would haunt Pakistanis for a long time but nevertheless, GEO got away with it without punishment or even an apology.
In 2010, when Army operations began in FATA to clear it from miscreants, GEO News senior anchorperson Hamid Meer claimed on live television that Pakistan army was not actually fighting Al Qaeda or Taliban groups in this area because it is afraid of their suicide bombers. He claimed that army was killing innocent civilians to portray to the world that it was doing its part to get rid of terrorists.
This claim helped form the the opinion that Pakistani army was not doing enough to tackle the menace of terrorism and resulted in undue foreign pressure on Pakistani government.
The claim proved to be rubbish later as army gradually gained control of most areas of FATA. Today, all FATA (except North Waziristan) remains under Pakistan’s control.
Apart from these few events that I have mentioned, there are various other incidents when wrong reporting by GEO news harmed the national interest. Is it time that explanations are sought from Pakistan’s biggest channel and accountability done or should it be allowed to go scot free once again?