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ID: 180281    11/26/2008 14:10    08ISLAMABAD3712    Embassy Islamabad    UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY        "VZCZCXRO0447 PP RUEHLH RUEHPW DE RUEHIL #3712/01 3311410 ZNR UUUUU ZZH P 261410Z NOV 08 FM AMEMBASSY ISLAMABAD TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0399 RUEHBUL/AMEMBASSY KABUL 9470 RUEHNE/AMEMBASSY NEW DELHI 4096 RUEHKP/AMCONSUL KARACHI 0694 RUEHLH/AMCONSUL LAHORE 6424 RUEHPW/AMCONSUL PESHAWAR 5282 RUMICEA/USCENTCOM INTEL CEN MACDILL AFB FL RHMFISS/CDR USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC"    "UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 ISLAMABAD 003712

SENSITIVE SIPDIS

E.O. 12958:  N/A TAGS: PHUM, PK SUBJECT: JANG GROUP'S BEHAVIOR MAKES WORKING WITH GEO TV UNTENABLE

1.  This is an action request see paragraph 15.

2.  Summary:  Post believes the time has come to end the contract  the BBG holds with "GEO TV Network" and move it to a responsible  organization.   GEO is owned by the "Jang Group," a multimedia  corporation owning Urdu and English language newspapers and  magazines and Urdu television stations in all major media markets in  Pakistan, with cable TV contracts in the United States and  elsewhere.  While claiming to be moderate and neutral to USG  policies, the "Jang Group" recently has increased its criticism of  the USG and its policies, has engaged in anti-Semitic behavior and  has specifically targeted the Ahmadi religious minority group in a  television program that resulted in the death of two (including one  Amcit) Ahmadis.

3.  We have evidence the Jang Group is consciously publishing and  broadcasting false and inflammatory stories, without regard to the  fact that they could encourage violence against Americans or against  U.S. interests.  It is purposefully using the reach of its  television network to amplify unchecked hate speech and promote  violence in a brazen attempt to uphold or even increase its market  share in a down economy.   Post requests that the BBG cancel its  contract to disseminate VOA programming through GEO.  [End summary]

4.  The "Jang Group" is a multimedia corporation owning Urdu and  English language newspapers, magazines, and television stations in  all major media markets in Pakistan with a country-wide reach.

Founded at the end of the Second World War by Mir Khalil ur Rehman. The company consists of three groups: Independent Newspapers  Corporation (Pvt) Limited, News Publications (Pvt) Limited, and  Independent Media Corporation (Pvt) Limited.

5.  The Group Chairman and Executive Director is Mir Javed ur  Rehman, the eldest son of founder Mir Khalil ur Rehman.  The Group  Chief Executive and Editor in Chief is his younger brother, Mir  Shakil ur Rehman.  The Group Editor is Mehmood Shaam (Karachi).

6.  The Independent Newspapers Corporation (Pvt) Limited owns the  daily Urdu language "Jang" with editions issued in Karachi, Lahore,  Rawalpindi, Quetta, Multan, and London.  It has a combined estimated  circulation of 300,000 plus (the largest in the country).  Other  papers owned by group include the Urdu daily "Awaz" (Lahore),  evening Urdu daily "Awam" (Karachi), evening Urdu daily "Inqilaab"  (Lahore), Urdu weekly "Akhbar-e-Jehan" (Karachi), English weekly "MAG" (Karachi), and the website www.jang.com.pk.

7.  News Publications (Pvt) Limited owns the English daily "The  News," with editions issued in Karachi, Islamabad, and Lahore.  Its  combined daily estimated circulation is 50,000.

8.  Independent Media Corporation (Pvt) Limited owns Urdu language "GEO TV Network."  The satellite TV channel is headquartered in  Dubai, UAE, with studios and offices in Karachi, Islamabad, and  Lahore.  "GEO TV Network" started in 2002 with its flagship "GEO  TV," later branching into two channels "GEO News" and "GEO  Entertainment" (dramas, sitcoms, etc.).  It has subsequently  launched "GEO Super" (24-hour sports), "Aag" (24-hour music) and  international editions including GEO UK, GEO USA, GEO Middle East,  GEO Canada, GEO Europe, and GEO Japan.  The Chief Executive is Mir  Ibrahim Rehman (based in Karachi), the son of Mir Shakil ur Rehman  and the President is Imran Aslam (Karachi).

9.  Post has watched with growing concern, as "Jang Group" media  entities have grown more irresponsible running erroneous and clearly  unsubstantiated stories against not only USG policies and the  Embassy, but also a minority religious group in Pakistan, as well as  espousing anti-Semitic rhetoric.  While initially this could be seen  as a flexing of new found media freedoms allowed under former  President Musharraf -- and continued under newly-elected President  Zardari - we now believe these stories are intentional and put our  people at risk.  The Group's outlets have frequently been the only  media outlets in Pakistan to run, without modification or  qualification, releases put out by the Taliban. Among the more egregious acts:

-- On August 27, 2008, Jang Group papers ran a story claiming all  USAID offices in the FATA had closed due to a threat from  Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan.  Not only was the story a fabrication,  but it also made baseless inflammatory accusations claiming  Blackwater USA was handling security and identifying an American  Peshawar Consulate employee as a Jew, stating that as a Jew he  should close down his offices there, "since the presence of Jewish

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officials in FATA would not be tolerated in any case."

-- On September 7, 2008, "GEO TV Network" aired the program "Aalim  Online."  The date coincided with the anniversary of a change in  Pakistan's constitution in 1974 that officially classified the  Ahmadis as "non-Muslims."   The host Dr. Aamir Liaquat Hussain egged  on guests about the Ahmadis.  One guest responded that, "As long as  this sedition is alive and even one (Ahmadi) remains on this earth,  there is a need to eliminate it."  Two other guests used the Arabic  phrase "Wajb-ul-Qatal (duty to kill) to describe those who believe  in the Ahmadi doctrine.  Dr. Hussain did not intervene to moderate  the views, and in his closing statement belittled the Ahmadi founder  and agreed in essence with the guests' contention that his followers  were not true Muslims.  No member of the Ahmadi community was  invited to speak.  Two prominent Ahmadi leaders, one of them an  American citizen, were murdered in Pakistan shortly after the  program was televised.

-- After the September 20, 2008 Marriott Hotel bombing, English  language paper "The News" ran a series of baseless pieces attempting  to blame the bombing on the U.S., claiming that Post had been using  the hotel as a base of operations for "hundreds" of "Marines,"  carrying on about steel boxes that had been moved in and out of the  hotel under cover of night.  When those stories petered out, it  claimed that the fire that raged throughout the night of the  bombing, was started by chemicals in the guest room of the one of  the Americans who died in the blast.  None of this was ever  substantiated in any way, yet ran on the front page of the paper and  was echoed by "GEO TV.".  Few of these stories were picked up by any  of the other media, and completely ignored by the international  press here.

-- On October 23, 2008, Post's Information Officer received a call  at 2200 on the mobile telephone he reserves for press calls from  someone who would not identify himself, but claimed that he had just  driven by the IO's residence, saw there were cars there, and asked  if he had not been invited to a reception.  The individual then  asked about a resolution that had recently been passed by the  Pakistani parliament, and then asked to speak to the Ambassador.

The IO was then asked about a "Daniel Pearl Lecture" he had heard  the IO conducted in Karachi earlier in the week, and then inquired  if the IO was Jewish.  The subsequent story in "The News" took the  IO's comments out of context in a clear effort to paint a derogatory  picture.

-- On November 17, 2008, "GEO TV" suddenly disappeared from the  airwaves in Karachi.  The blackout lasted about six hours.  A senior "GEO" staffer told our senior information LES that the stoppage was  a result of pressure being applied by one of the political parties  due to "GEO" not airing a speech by one of its politicians.  Post  found out subsequently that another "GEO" official disclosed to an  officer of a European diplomatic mission that they had taken  themselves off the air in order to blame the political party, and  garner support for the station.

10.  We have protested directly to reporters, editors, and the Group  Chief Executive and Editor in Chief Mir Shakil ur Rehman over the  consistent inaccuracy of "Jang Group" reporting, as well as their  refusal to apply the most basic standards of journalistic ethics,  stating that we expect to be called about and to respond to any  story any entity of the group is carrying about the Embassy or its  activities, and even provided them with direct telephone numbers for  the IO, the PAO, and the Ambassador.  Despite these efforts, the "Jang Group" has not changed its practices.

11.  All of this occurs under the eye of the Group Editor who has  not exercised supervision or applied good journalistic practices  when assigning and reviewing stories.  When queried by Post's IO he  stated that they know that many of their reporters have political  agendas, are paid by ISI, military intelligence, Jamaat-e-Islami, or  other interests but that they prefer not to fire or reprimand these  reporters.

12.  The problem of reporting rumor, innuendo, and unsubstantiated  allegations is bad enough when limited to the distribution numbers  of "Jang" daily or "The News."  However, it is when these stories  are amplified by the "GEO TV Network" that the truly negative  influence expands to substantial numbers.  And all of this by their  own admission is calculated to maintain or increase their market  share.

13.  On a recent visit to "GEO TV Network" offices in Karachi, our  IO had a conversation putting all of this into context.  "GEO" sees

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its behavior as win-win with sensationalism and hate speech  generating ratings and any attempt by authorities to rein it in  allowing them to exploit their circumstance by claiming censorship.

While they realize that we (like the GOP, Brits, Canadians and many  of the international reporters) find their reporting reprehensible  and dangerous, we have supported them in the past, especially when  President Musharraf took "GEO TV" off the air during the 2007 State  of Emergency, and believe we dare not stop them lest we be seen as  hypocrites.  Their calculus is that we are more cowed by accusations  of actively trampling their freedom of the press than we are of  tacitly supporting hate speech.  Therein lies the rub for the USG --  at what point do we cater to consistent, blatant hate speech and  intentionally inaccurate and irresponsible reporting in major daily  newspapers and a country's largest broadcaster which threatens the  safety of American citizens or U.S. interests?

14.   We have discussed the issue with the GOP at different levels,  including President Zardari, and all are concerned by the "Jang  Group's" coverage.  While wishing to grant the benefit of the doubt  in order to protect the right to a free press, we believe the utter  lack of any journalistic standard or editorial restraint has now  proven too much to overlook.

15.  Action Request:  In light of this calculated behavior, post  believes it is time to terminate the BBG contract to disseminate VOA  programming through the "Geo TV Network."  Post recommends finding a  more balanced and responsible partner with whom to deal for our  media program contracts in Pakistan. "


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Comments (4) Closed



reza khan (karachi)
Jun 01, 2011 06:11pm
I'm sure the American Embassy has never seen the coverage on fox news and cnn america with the daily bashing of pakistan and islam, inciting religious hatred and to violence.
The Greener Side
Jun 02, 2011 08:56am
@Reza.. Typical pakistani response.... I m not the problem .. u are... Stop blaming.. start introspecting... All media channels are the same.... its upto gullibles like us .. who blindly believe these media houses.... Wake Up!!!
SAS
Jun 08, 2011 08:10am
So if Fox and CNN do it, then its ok for GEO to do it...yea, makes sense.
bilal
Jun 09, 2011 02:47am
@greener side dats again the media report from west, never mind....