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Thursday, May 23, 2024

Stephen Sackur jolted Dawn’s CEO Hameed Haroon: reality behind ‘impartial’ media exposed

News Analysis |

Globalization has made journalism an interesting and equally challenging profession for journalists and media house owners. The latest interview of Hameed Haroon, CEO of Dawn Media Group, on BBC’s ‘Hard Talk’ program with Stephen Sackur has revealed how media organizations work and manipulate public thinking and mass psychology without having any solid evidence.

The host of the program asked Haroon an interesting question and demanded him to provide evidence of his claim that ‘Pakistan Army was orchestrating plans against democracy and Nawaz Sharif’. Haroon recently wrote an op-ed piece for The Washington Time, and had asserted that there is “an unprecedented assault by the Pakistani military on the freedom of the press, which is threatening our chances for free and fair elections.”

Haroon, who is also President of the All Pakistan Newspapers Society (APNS), made various shocking claims in his piece and held the armed forces of Pakistan responsible for making the election only a process of ‘selection’. Without providing any evidence, the CEO of Dawn has also written in his piece that “certain forces aim to prevent the media from providing independent coverage of the country’s central political issue.”

Stephen Sackur quickly countered Mr. Haroon and asked him; “where is your evidence? You are a journalist. You know you can’t say anything in this way.”

His piece became popular at international stage where political actors and international political establishment want things to move in a way which best suits them, but BBC anchor pushed Haroon into troubled waters. Stephen Sackur asked him, “the bottom line is this, you the self-proclaimed, independent, impartial, neutral media group covering Pakistan politics seem to be supportive and sympathetic of Nawaz Sharif and his daughter who are now, it has to be said, convicted criminals.”

Read more: Dawn leaks and ISPR’s sensible move

Hameed Haroon: “I think what is now important is that there is an element of orchestration in that.” Stephen Sackur: “Where is your evidence? Who is orchestrating and where is your evidence for it [this claim]?” Hameed Haroon: “I think if you go to the social media, if you look at the trolls on the social media, if you look at the attacks on Dawn. You might get some idea that there is a very large presence by the ISPR [he meant Pakistani intelligence when asked for clarification by Stephen Sackur].”

On every allegation Mr. Haroon urged the host to look at the social media in Pakistan, the host, quite disturbingly, kept asking for solid evidence to validate Haroon’s shocking and ‘unbelievable’ claims. Mr. Haroon told the anchor that the distribution of his newspaper Dawn was banned for last two and half months in Larkana, a remote district of Sindh with 35% literacy rate.

Stephen Sackur made several interesting points and asked some tough questions from Dawn’s CEO.  On Dawn leaks, the host reminded Mr. Haroon that how the report “deeply embarrassed” the military and your newspaper (Dawn) was ‘with Nawaz Sharif’. It is not a journalist’s job, said the host. Mr. Haroon tried to defend his newspaper but the host went on saying “you are giving a platform to Nawaz Sharif, it does not make you impartial or independent for many of Pakistanis.

Read more: How Dawn Leaks ruined Pakistan Army’s credibility

You are a self-proclaimed independent, impartial media group but are actually supportive and sympathetic of Nawaz Sharif.” Dawn leaks was a news story, highlighting an alleged confrontation between the civilian government and the military at a meeting in October 2016, published by Dawn newspaper in 2016 erupted with a storm in national politics and shortly after, it transformed into a news leak scandal before becoming a mainstream media fodder.

Haroon, who is also President of the All Pakistan Newspapers Society (APNS), made various shocking claims in his piece and held the armed forces of Pakistan responsible for making the election only a process of ‘selection’.

While commenting on Imran Khan’s popularity these days in Pakistan Mr. Haroon said that “Imran’s index goes up because of security agencies”. Stephen Sackur quickly countered Mr. Haroon and asked him; “where is your evidence? You are a journalist. You know you can’t say anything in this way.”

At the end of the interview, Mr. Haroon tried to clarify his position, saying ‘I am not making a case against the state.’ But Stephen Sackur did not stop and clarified to Mr. Haroon that ‘you are making a case against the state. You are saying that the military is trying to undermine freedom of expression in Pakistan. You are trying to build up a narrative against the state.”

Read more: Dawn leaks scandal nearing its resolution?

Reactions on Twitter

Critics of Dawn in Pakistan got an interesting opportunity to ‘expose’ the newspaper and its agenda after the interview went on-air. Imran Khan, chairman of PTI, came at the front and appreciated the host and bashed Dawn. “The blatant bias of Dawn against PTI has now come out in the open. So much for Dawn’s neutral and liberal credentials! Complete farce! Full marks to Stevan Sackur for exposing Dawn in his BBC HardTalk interview,” Imran Khan tweeted.

One social media user said “Dear Steve, Thanks & please keep asking these questions. Hameed Haroon said @dawn_com is being blocked in Larkana! I’m from Sindh! Please visit Larkana & learn yourself how many people read @Dawn_News. Majority doesn’t even speak Urdu let alone English!”

A senior leader of PTI Shireen Mazari bashed at the media blackout on Haroon’s interview. “Why is media silent on Haroon saying DawnLeaks material acquired from “foreign sources”? Seems Dawn working for foreign interests! After all, none other than Dawn’s own Hameed Haroon has said so!”

Ms. Mazari was referring to Mr. Haroon’s claim that Dawn Leaks story was acquired from foreign/international sources.

Read more: Will the DAWN leaks Commission report find the actual ‘Leak’ ?

Hamza Ali Abbasi, actor and activist, also slammed Dawn’s Haroon Hameed for his failure to provide any evidence to back his ‘allegation’. “Hameed Haroon, owner of DAWN kept giving ref of social media when asked about evidence of his news. RIP to all the “Military is doing political engineering & censoring media” nonsense. Shame on all the conspiracy theorists bashing Pakistan Army only based on speculative opinions!”

Senior journalist Kamran Khan also tweeted and regretted that Dawn was losing its case. “Respected, Dawn seems like losing case against, let’s say, establishment, when CEO Hameed Haroon couldn’t provide convincing replies to great BBC HARD talk inquisitor Stephen Sackur. Hameed was terribly under prepared or didn’t have specific answers.”

Attempts to make the Upcoming General Elections Controversial?

Political commentators in Pakistan fear that efforts are being made to make the upcoming general elections controversial so that any party elected into power may suffer from legitimacy crisis. Senior anchorperson Dr. Moeed Pirzada has made a similar observation a few days ago and said “do you sense that a deliberate, well-orchestrated, well-funded “Regional & International Script” is in place to make the coming Elections difficult, troubling & controversial denying credibility & legitimacy to the next incoming Govt?”

Moreover, PTI is likely to make a difference in the upcoming elections which is not acceptable for many Pakistani liberals and western powers for their own political and strategic interests in Pakistan and in this region. PTI’s chief has his own vision of South Asia and Muslim World, this is something terrible for the forces of status quo at the international stage. Imran Khan often said that his wish is to unite the Muslim world to appear as powerful community at the international stage.

More importantly, Sharifs and Zardari are facing corruption cases in Pakistan, and it is quite obvious that the country is close to witnessing a post-dynastic politics era. The question in this complex and manipulated political setting is that how Pakistani media, civil society, intellectuals and public will respond to local and international forces?