Letter from Citizens for Free and responsible Media, Pakistan, emailed to top executives of Dunya TV News, Mr. Mian Amer Mahmood, Mr Naveed Kashif, and Mr Sami Abrahim, signed by prominent journalists, academics, and professionals in support of Dr Pervez Hoodbhoy
Dear Dunya News,
We are writing to express our concern about the shameful incident at your TV channel on Oct 26, 2013, in which the anchor Kamran Shahid allowed his guest Prof. Pervez Hoodbhoy to be abused and shouted at by another guest, violating Dunya News’ own code of conduct for anchors that is supposed to be monitored by a three-member editorial Board.
Prof. Hoodbhoy is a man of great integrity, highly respected in Pakistan and abroad. Regardless of whether he ‘started it’ by terming Dunya TV anchor Kamran Shahid and his guests as liars, it is reprehensible that Mr. Shahid smilingly ‘allowed’ these guests to continually shout down and abuse Dr Hoodbhoy, clearly enjoying the situation. Any decent producer would have cut off their audio.
Both as a matter of principle and given the atmosphere in Pakistan, it is highly irresponsible and unethical to raise accusations of “Islam Dushmani”, “blasphemy”, etc. even if they are only implied. We support free speech, but like any right, it comes with a responsibility towards ethics and responsibility. Incitement and slander cannot be tolerated. Mainstream broadcast media has the widest audiences and thus their responsibility is also the biggest in this regard.
As Dr Hoodbhoy has subsequently explained, he had asked who the other guests would be but was not given an answer. Mr Shahid also did not inform Dr Hoodbhoy that this program was about the book “I Am Malala”. Towards the end, the audio was turned off from Dr Hoodbhoy’s headset, leading him to think that the program had ended and didn’t know that the camera was still on as he removed his headset and walked away. The anchor Kamran Shahid then misleadingly said that Dr Hoodbhoy had “left” the program. (see Dr Hoodbhoy’s letter below)
Mr Shahid has a history of encouraging such abusive exchanges. Here’s the link to the protest against his show on Express TV last year, that was (like this one) not only unbefitting to any respectable current affairs programme, but also fanned the flames of conflict in already-burning Balochistan.
It is disappointing to see that Dunya TV allows such behaviour. If this kind of treatment is meted out to the progressives in Pakistan, they will end up withdrawing, leaving space for zealots to further pollute the psyche of the entire society.
We hope you will take this matter seriously and launch an enquiry giving precedence to social responsibility over ratings and corporate interests.
Text of Dr. Hoodbhoy’s email letter sent to some friends:
“Because some facts are being widely misinterpreted, I would like to set the record straight.
“1. The anchor, Kamran Shahid, telephoned me repeatedly to invite me to his program. I was reluctant because of my demanding academic schedule but he insisted that it was very important to counter the wrong trends that we see in Pakistan and for people like me to raise their voices. I agreed to participate, not knowing that he had also invited the media extremists, Orya Maqbool Jan (OMJ) and Ansar Abbasi (AA). He had deliberately withheld those names from me, although I had asked who else would be on the show.
“2. Dunya TV sent a DSNG unit to my house in Islamabad. I could hear but not see the anchor or the other guests. During the shouting match that developed during the program – a consequence of OMJ and AA savagely attacking Malala Yusufzai and misrepresenting the contents of her book – I naturally thought that my voice was getting through to the audience. I was wrong.
“3. This program was about the book “I Am Malala” but I had not been thus informed. Else I would have had a copy in front of me to refute the inventions of AA and OMJ. Therefore I had to rely on my memory rather than have access to the exact text.
“4. The next morning, when the program had been loaded on to the internet, I was astonished to note that the audio level from my end had been turned down so low that my voice was inaudible. However AA was hurling abuses against me and these were coming through loud and clear. I also noted that AA and OMJ would occasionally appear full-screen whereas I was shown as a tiny image even when speaking. This was clear manipulation and bias at the technical level.
“5. After some time had passed, the audio was abruptly turned off from my headset. I naturally thought that the program had ended, perhaps prematurely. So I took off my headset and walked away. What else was there to do? But, on watching the televised program, I realized that they had kept the video camera on! The program was actually in the final stages and AA (full screen) had been given the full opportunity to vent his venom on me. The anchor said that I had left the program. This was a complete lie.
“To conclude: I DID NOT WALK OUT. Using google, I discovered that several blogs/newspapers have reported that I walked out in defeat. These are gutter tactics. Sadly, in pursuit of ratings, Dunya TV is pandering to the extremist right wing.”
- Abdul Hamid Bashani Khan, Barrister, Solicitor & Notary Public, Mississauga, Canada
- Ali Kazim, Group Captain (Retired), Pakistan Air Force, Karachi, Pakistan
- Prof. Akbar Noman, Senior Fellow, Columbia University, New York, USA
- Amin Ansari, President of an IT company, Lahore, Pakistan
- Amir Jafri, Professor, Islamabad/Pakistan
- Anis Dani, Lead Evaluator, Independent Evaluation Group of the World Bank Group, Washington DC, USA
- Asif Alam, Global Head of Machine Readable News (company name witheld), New York, NY
- Babar Ayaz, columnist and author, Karachi
- Beena Sarwar, journalist, Pakistan
- Farooq Sulehria, Co-editor Viewpoint Online, Pakistan
- George Fulton, Broadcaster, U.K.
- Ghazala Kazi, MD, Columbia, USA
- Hasan Pervez, Wing Commander (Retired), PAF, Karachi
- Huma Yusuf, journalist, Karachi
- Hussein El-Edroos, Manager Business Development & Training, Islamabad
- Prof. Ijaz Khan, teacher, Peshawar
- Ijlal Babar, MD, Ocean Springs, MS
- Imran Munir, teacher, Vancouver, Canada
- Iqbal A. Alavi, Hon. Treasurer, National Council of Academics, and Hon. Treasurer, Gulshan Education Society, Karachi
- Javed Qazi, advocate, Forum for Secular Pakistan, Karachi
- Jehangir Masud, banker, France
- Joseph Gerson (PhD), Convener, Working Group for Peace and Demilitarization in Asia and the Pacific, USA
- Jugnu Mohsin, Publisher & Managing Editor, The Friday Times & GT, Lahore.
- Khalid Masud, Management consultant, Houston, Texas, USA
- Maheen Usmani, freelance writer, Paris
- Maroof Syed, Senior Director at (company name witheld), Boston, MA
- Muhammed G Ayub, M.D., New Jersey, USA
- Muneer Memon, Chief Executive, Jeay FM network Sukkur, Larkana, Moro, Mirpurkhas
- Dr Mustafa Kamil Kidwai, Technology and Management Consultant, London / UK
- Nadeem F. Paracha, Senior Columnist at Dawn Newspaper and Dawn.Com
- Nadir Cheema, SOAS, University of London
- Naziha Syed Ali, journalist, Karachi
- Noman Quadri, social activist, Karachi
- Nuscie Jamil, Director Latitude PR, Lahore, Pakistan
- Nausheen Ahmad, advocate, Karachi, Pakistan
- Omar Ali, MD, Wisconsin, USA
- Quratulain (Annie) Zaman, journalist, advisor at bytesforall, PakVotes and author/contributor Global Voices
- Rafiullah Kakar, Master of Public Policy, Rhodes class 2013, Green Templeton college, Oxford
- Sabahat Ashraf, Communicator, Founder & Strategist SA Relief, Principal iKolachi, California
- Sadaf Mujeeb, Student, Karachi
- Shaheryar Azhar, banker, Abu Dhabi/UAE
- Shamim Malik, Management consultant, Ridgefield, CT, United States
- Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy, CEO Sharmeen Obaid Films, Karachi, Pakistan
- Shams Z. Abbas, Ex Gen. Manager, Director, National Fertiliser Corp, Lahore
- Sohail Khurshid, Software Developer, Toronto Canada
- Syed M. Abbas, Department of Economics, University of Oxford, U.K.
- Dr. Taimur Rahman, Assistant Professor Political Science, Lahore University of Management Sciences
- Tariq Suleman, SOAS, University of London
- Umair Javed, Department of Sociology, London School of Economics and Political Science
- Waqas Butt, freelance writer, UK
- Umber Khairi, BBC World Service, London
- Usman Rana, student, Lahore
- Zahid Imran, MD, Baton Rouge, Louisiana
- Zakia Sarwar, professor and teacher trainer, Karachi
Note: If you have the stomach for it, watch the show here: