LONDON: In a legal first for the UK, ARY News has had to broadcast a summary of a highly critical legal judgement against it. ARY was forced to announce that the judgement found that 24 ARY programmes about Mir Shakil-ur-Rehman, Editor-in-Chief of GEO/Jang Group, were not only “seriously defamatory” but also “simply had no foundation”.

The first ARY broadcast summarising the findings of the judge, Sir David Eady, came on at 6pm UK time. The judge ordered the message to be both read out and displayed in text between 6pm and 6.05pm on Dec 23 and to be repeated at 10pm and 3am on Dec 24.

“It was very important to clear our name so we can continue to do our job for our readers and viewers,” said Mir Shakil-ur-Rehman.

The British court has no authority to order ARY to broadcast summaries of verdicts, corrections or apologies on TV channels in Pakistan. The judge’s order concerned only ARY’s UK programme feed. It is estimated that tens of thousands of people in the UK might have seen the ARY programmes in question.

“The message from this case is clear,” said Alasdair Pepper of London law firm Carter Ruck that represented Mir Shakil-ur-Rehman. “If Pakistani channels want to broadcast in the UK they will have to respect UK libel laws.”

The summary of the judgement began with details of the amount ARY has been forced to pay Mir Shakil-ur-Rehman. “On 2 December 2016, the High Court of Justice ordered that the UK broadcaster of ARY News (the UK company ARY Network Ltd) and its Chief Operating Officer, Fayaz Ghafoor (“ARY Network Ltd”) to pay £185,000 in libel damages to Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman, the Editor in Chief of Jang/Geo Group,” the message began.

When costs are taken into account ARY’s final bill is expected to be closer to £3 million.

The allegations against Mir Shakil-ur-Rehman included linkage with RAW, the Indian intelligence agency, the CIA (the US foreign intelligence agency) and/or Mossad (the Israeli foreign intelligence agency) and taking covert funding from foreign governments in order to promote their agenda and committing blasphemy.

Judge Sir David Eady’s ruling that ARY broadcast summary of the judgement was the first time the UK’s Defamation Law 2013 has been used in this way. ARY was also restrained through injunction from broadcasting its false allegations in future.

“This is the first time that a TV network has been ordered to publish a summary of a judgement in this way,” said lawyer Alasdair Pepper.

“It reflects not only the seriousness of ARY’s libels but also their failure to apologise, or even to inform ARY Network viewers of the findings in favour of Mr Rehman.”

While the UK case is now over, there are still 15 ongoing cases in Pakistan as well as two Pemra complaints filed against ARY. Geo/Jang has also asked the Supreme Court of Pakistan and the prime minister to establish a judicial commission.

The summary of the judgement that ARY had to broadcast said: “The Court found that ARY Network Ltd’s conduct had been ‘plainly oppressive, unreasonable and unacceptable’ and its ‘hostile activities’ were taken into account in the context of aggravation of damages for libel. The Judge indicated that the size of the libel damages award should be enough to convince any fair-minded observer of the baselessness of these serious charges.”

Published in Dawn December 24th, 2016

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