Dawn Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Hameed Haroon on Wednesday filed a defamation case against filmmaker Jamshed Mahmood, better known as Jami, in the Sindh High Court (SHC). Analysts believe that the court may face difficulty dealing with a case which took place almost a decade ago.
In his petition, CEO Dawn detailed the accusations levelled by Jami and urged the court to “perpetually restrain [the filmmaker], through himself or by instigating others, from making […] defamatory statements”.
Earlier this month, Haroon who had previously issued a statement denying the rape, had sent Jami a legal notice under Section 8 of the Defamation Ordinance 2002, asking for an unconditional public apology and retraction of rape allegations.
The story is simply untrue and intentionally fabricated at the instance of those who wish to silence me and through me, to compel the newspaper that I represent to support their repressive narrative
In response, the filmmaker had called for the withdrawal of Haroon’s legal notice within a week.
It may be mentioned here that the petitioner has also asked the court to direct Jami to “permanently remove/delete the defamatory statements” from his Twitter account while also demanding that Jami pays Rs1 billion “to be disbursed to any charitable organisation or for any noble cause, including the freedom of the press, that the court deems appropriate”.
In October, the filmmaker had come forward with his #MeToo story, alleging that he was raped by a media tycoon, but stopped short of naming the rapist. His allegations came in the wake of attacks on the #MeToo campaign on social media after a professor in Lahore who was wrongly accused of harassment by one of his students committed suicide.
Why im so strongly supporting #metoo ? cuz i know exactly how it happens now, inside a room then outside courts inside courts and how a survivor hides confides cuz i was brutally raped by a very powerful person in our media world. A Giant actually. and yes im taller than him but
— jami-ازار (@jamiazaad) October 20, 2019
Hameed Haroon rejects rape allegations
In response, Haroon on Monday issued a statement categorically rejecting the rape accusations. “The story is simply untrue and intentionally fabricated at the instance of those who wish to silence me and through me, to compel the newspaper that I represent to support their repressive narrative,” said Haroon, adding that he will initiate legal action.
Haroon also warned that “I am initiating legal action to clear my name and reputation, and to safeguard the freedom of the press by bringing to justice all those responsible for these false and malicious allegations against me”.
“I first met Jami Raza when he was a freelance photographer and aspiring filmmaker in the 1990s or the early 2000s, which was the time that Jami had produced photographs of the Sir Jehangir Kothari bandstand for the purposes of architectural documentation and conservation. Impressed with Jami’s work, I enlisted him in 2003-04 to collaborate with me on a photo essay in the catalog of the Sadequain exhibition at the Mohatta Palace Museum. I do recall going to his house sometime thereafter to condole on his father’s death but was unable to personally meet him. I do not recall ever being alone with Jami Raza. This has been the sum total of my interaction with Jami,” he said.
“I am convinced that the false and malicious allegation has been leveled at the instigation of powerful interests in the state and society who, for their own motives and the promotion of their own repressive narrative, wish to destroy my credibility and as a consequence thereof, the credibility of the newspaper group that I am associated with”, he added.
“Not about Dawn vs. Jami”
Jami said in a post that he had feared “this entire plot that I’m part of Establishment to bring Dawn down” would be used against him. The director clarified that coming forward with his story was not about “Dawn vs Jami. It’s personal issue raised now (because) I’m doing all this for few years to help victims.”
He rejected the notion that he was acting on the behest of anyone, despite having been approached by some hoping, “to bring down Dawn. We refused every single time as I told them I’m from a family where we don’t use any illegal means to serve any purpose at all. Rest we will see in court. This is for victims and survivors. We put our neck out (because) #metoo died here in Pakistan (because) of all these dirty tricks.”
“I’m giving my word to Dawn management that I would never hurt Dawn ever… issue is sexual assault, not Dawn,” he assured the newspaper staff.
Misuse of #MeToo
#MeToo is a social movement against sexual harassment and sexual assault. It got popularity in 2017 when many actresses and celebrities spoke up and exposed big names who were allegedly involved in the worst sort of sexual harassment. Many women in Pakistan also came forward against their harassers and shared their bitter experiences.
However, some scholars and political commentators maintain that the campaign is being misused in the developing world for political benefits. “Let’s be honest and admit the fact that #MeToo in Pakistan has been misused in many cases. This is sad since it has made the entire campaign questionable,” G-M Pitafi told GVS.
In August 2017, Ms. Ayesha Gulalai, Member of the National Assembly of Pakistan and a woman leader of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) accused Imran Khan of sexual harassment. “Imran Khan sent some indecent texts to me back in 2013”, she said. She remained in the party for almost 4 years, became MPA and held several meetings with Imran Khan but ultimately decided to speak up and quit the party. Journalists demanded answers from Imran Khan, now Prime Minister of Pakistan.
— Mubashir Zaidi (@Xadeejournalist) August 2, 2017
On 19th April 2018, Meesha Shafi, Pakistani singer, accused her colleague and renowned singer and actor Ali Zafar of sexual harassment in a tweet. Once again Pakistani liberals and ‘defenders of women rights’ stood up against Ali for allegedly harassing his colleague. Ali kept on refuting the allegations but women’s rights activists refused to “trust” him. The matter has been brought before the court by Ali.
On November 9th, journalist Urooj Zia accused Dr. Taimur Rehman of LUMS of sexually harassing some women. “15+ reports of @Taimur_Laal grabbing women’s butts at KLF ’14 – not accidents; proper copping a feel – while he was there with his pregnant wife. The women wish to remain anonymous because they don’t want their names associated with the vileness that is Taimur Rahman. #MeToo” she tweeted.
Dr. Rehman categorically rejected the allegations and preferred not to speak much on the subject.
Experts and opinion-makers believe that Pakistani media, civil society and public intellectuals need to dig into the phenomenon of sexual harassment in order to determine some objective set of rules to ensure that nobody misuses the said platform for vested political interests.