KARACHI: Protesters vandalised the head offices of the Jang-Geo media group on I.I. Chundrigar Road on Sunday, allegedly beat a cameraman and other staffers.
The episode drew a sharp reaction from media organisations, prompting the authorities to take notice. The protesters were venting out their rage against inflammatory words allegedly used by Irshad Bhatti, an anchor, against Sindhis recently.
Additional IG Ghulam Nabi Memon, the Karachi police chief, told Dawn that “this is an unfortunate incident. We will register an FIR and arrest the accused responsible for this attack”.
Mr Memon added that “we will conduct an inquiry and take action against those police officers who failed to pre-empt the incident”.
CM vows action, police chief orders inquiry against officers who failed to prevent the attack
Another police officer told Dawn that three or four rallies had converged on the vicinity of the offices of Jang and Geo News. The officer said a “nationalist party” had given a call for sit-in against joblessness while another party was protesting enforced disappearances at Karachi Press Club. In the meantime, a number of people allegedly led by a journalist-cum-activist, Mushtaq Sarki, arrived at Shaheen Complex from Club Road and teamed up with a larger group already present there.
The police officer said the protestors made no attempt to get in touch with the management of Geo-Jang group and straightaway started ransacking its offices.
The official conceded the police did not take any action as they thought that Mr Sarki, being a journalist himself, would speak to the management and submit a resolution. “Police will take action against the suspects after collecting CCTV footage.”
Faheem Siddiqui, the chief of Geo News’s Karachi bureau, told Dawn that the protesters attacked the channel’s central office, damaged the main gate as well as the walkthrough gate, and beat up staffers inside the office.
Shards of glass were strewn all over the place.
Mr Siddiqui said the channel had already tendered an apology over the remarks in question by Irshad Bhatti, an anchorperson.
“However, whatever was being circulated on social media bears no relation to the content aired by Geo News.”
Faheem Siddiqui called upon the administration to take action against the culprits.
Azhar Abbas, head of the TV channel, said in his tweet: ‘Strongly condemn attack on offices of Geo and Jang. They vandalised the reception area and beat our cameraman and staff. Where is the govt.”
Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah called Azhar Abbas in the evening and informed him that he (Murad) had asked police to submit a report, according to an official statement.
“We will take action against whoever is involved in the incident,” vowed the provincial chief executive. Mr Murad recalled that “we have struggled for media freedoms our entire life”.
Sindh police chief
Mushtaq Ahmed Mahar, the inspector general of Sindh, directed the SSP South to submit a report about the incident urgently, according to a spokesperson.
Sindh Information Minister Nasir Hussain Shah visited the place in the evening and condemned the violence.
Talking to media, the minister said the SSP told him that the protesters had planned to head towards Karachi Press Club from Shaheen Complex, but changed their route at the last minute.
Sindh Governor Imran Ismail said it was an unfortunate incident. The governor was surprised to learn that police did not spring into action in time, saying he would take up the matter with the Inspector General of Police.
Karachi Press Club President Fazil Jamili expressed sadness over the attack. “Any opinion expressed by an analyst is his own and is not the opinion of the media house. And if any anchor’s words hurt someone [...] I saw Geo News had aired an apology as well. After that, the matter should have been laid to rest.
“But to create an issue out of it and to use it to propel a campaign against Geo, to bring a mob to the office and to vandalise the building, to attack the staff, is in no way acceptable.
Published in Dawn, February 22nd, 2021