Two complaints made by Geo TV’s Baseem Chagtai against rival New Vision TV have been upheld by UK media regulator, Ofcom. Both complaints were filed by Mir Shakil Rahman Rahman, owner of Jang Group, a newspaper organisation and part of the Geo media group.
The first complaint revolved around an episode of ‘Power Play’ on New Vision TV, broadcast on 21st November 2017. The programme featured an interview with Imran Khan, the Chairman of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf political party, during which Khan made a number of claims about the Geo media group and Rahman.
Mr Chagtai complained that Mr Rahman was treated unjustly or unfairly in the programme as broadcast because:
– The programme included an interview with Mr Khan who made “false and malicious allegations” which were unfair to Mr Rahman. In particular, Mr Khan accused Mr Rahman of having been “bought” and of “making money” by supporting the corrupt former Prime Minster of Pakistan, Mr Sharif. Mr Khan said that Mr Sharif was “a criminal who has been caught stealing money abroad” and that Mr Rahman and his media group were “standing by a criminal”. Mr Chagtai said that the programme therefore implied that Mr Rahman was “…a party to and supports the ‘looting’”. Mr Chagtai said that at no time during the programme did the presenter attempt to provide any balance to Mr Khan’s comments.
– Mr Rahman was not given an appropriate and timely opportunity to respond to the allegations made about him in the programme. Mr Chagtai said that despite the programme being pre-recorded the broadcaster did not contact Mr Rahman to get his response to the allegations.
New Vision TV said that Mr Khan’s comments were made in an exclusive live interview with Mr Khan on a programme which covered a number of topics, and that the comments relating to Mr Rahman made up only one small section of a wider discussion. New Vision TV said that to consider the comments outside of this was disproportionate. It said that the programme’s presenter had asked about accountability to the public and the financial affairs of Mr Sharif, which led to his disqualification from the office of Prime Minister of Pakistan. It said that Mr Khan had answered these questions directly and that he made one reference to the relationship between media organisations and Mr Sharif.
New Vision TV said that it was always careful to broadcast a disclaimer advising viewers that it did not present opinions as facts and that guests’ opinions and statements were their own and not endorsed by New Vision TV. In this case, it said that the views expressed by Mr Khan were not endorsed by the presenter.
Ofcom considered that the comments made in the programme amounted to significant allegations about Mr Rahman. Therefore, in accordance with Practice 7.11, the broadcaster should have offered Mr Rahman an appropriate and timely opportunity to respond to it in order to avoid unfairness. The broadcaster’s failure to provide such an opportunity was unfair to Mr Rahman. Ofcom considered therefore that Mr Rahman was treated unjustly or unfairly in the programme as broadcast.
In the second incident during an episode of ‘News’ on 24th November 2017, Imran Khan, Chairman of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf political party, made a number of claims about the Geo media group and Mir Shakil Rahman, during an address at a political rally.
Chagtai complained that Rahman was treated unjustly or unfairly in the programme as broadcast because:
– The programme included footage of Mr Khan and captions of his comments which made “false and malicious allegations” about Rahman. In particular, Mr Khan accused Rahman of having been “bought” and of “making money” by supporting the corrupt former Prime Minister of Pakistan, Mian Nawaz Sharif. Mr Khan said that public money was “thrown into the media” and “…used to buy advertising worth billions of rupees, as a bribe” and that Rahman, who he referred to as the “media godfather”, and his media group had taken public money to defend the “Sharif Family’s theft” instead of helping the people of Pakistan. Mr Khan asked that people “boycott Geo and Jang Group”.
– Rahman was not given an appropriate and timely opportunity to respond to allegations made about him in the programme.
New Vision TV said that the statements included in the programme were made by Khan at a public rally in Hafizabad which was shown live on all the media broadcasters in Pakistan and Pakistani channels around the world. It said that Mr Khan had been talking broadly about political corruption as evidenced by the leak of the Panama Papers.
New Vision TV said that, when the comment about Mr Rahman was made three minutes into the programme, it had cut away from the live news feed in line with its policy not to air comments about the Geo media group.
The broadcaster said that all of the TV channels in Pakistan that hold licences to broadcast in the UK, including Geo News, showed the live broadcast of Mr Khan at the rally. New Vision TV said that it had acted in the same way as the rest of these broadcasters and had taken the story as breaking news.
Ofcom has upheld Mr Chagtai’s complaint made on behalf of Mr Rahman of unjust or unfair treatment in the programme as broadcast.