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Summary of media consumer activism in Pakistan
We are a group of activists, academics, lawyers and journalists, citizens from all walks of life -- essentially media consumers serving as an independent platform to voice public concern and through people powered reform, ensure that freedom and responsibility prevails in the media in Pakistan. We, as concerned media consumers, came together united in our outrage against a morning show broadcast on Jan 17, 2012, links to which began circulating on facebook on Jan 20, 2012. In the next few days our online petition received over 5,000 signatories (http://bit.ly/zRmPNZ). In addition, we emailed a copy of the petition text to Samaa TV chairperson, Zafar Siddiqi with cc’s to several signatories (Annexure 1). We attempted to call and text message him en-masse in order to draw his attention too. He replied promptly, expressing his concern and regrets and promising that the channel would apologise (Annexure 2). The following morning, Samaa TV broadcast an unconditional apology on behalf of the channel. However, the host Maya Khan’s words did not constitute a proper apology or acknowledgement of her transgressions. We again emailed Mr Siddiqi, thanking him for Samaa TV’s apology and requesting an unqualified apology from the host (Annexure 3). He replied shortly afterwards, assuring us that guidelines had been put in place to prevent such transgressions from being repeated. He also said that since the host Maya Khan had refused to apologise unconditionally, her services and her show were being terminated (Annexure 4).
Many people also sent sms messages to Mr Siddiqi’s cell phone and called the Samaa TV offices, in addition to complaining at Pemra’s online feedback form. According to Pemra officials, they received some 400 complaints about that particular show. In addition, there was a threat of legal action against Samaa TV and contact was also initiated with corporations to withdraw commercials from such shows (both actions were stopped after Mr Siddiqi’s second email responding positively to media consumers’ complaints, but both remain real possibilities for future campaigns). The degree of participation shown and encouragement by media consumers led us to come together under the umbrella of 'Citizens for Free and Responsible Media (CFRM), Pakistan'. We function as a non-hierarchal platform with decisions taken by consensus among the core group members, with inputs from media consumers who can now join us on our facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/C4FRM). People can also point out media transgressions and give their inputs here, to do their bit to “reduce the social cost of silence”. The non-government organizations Network for Consumer Protection, Intermedia Pakistan (both headed by senior, respected journalists), and Bytes for All support our cause and had begun work on a legal petition against Samaa TV. Following successful outcome of our social media campaign to force Samaa TV management to address concerns around the concerned morning show, they announced on Jan 29, 2012, that they would “withhold their planned legal challenge in the Supreme Court on privacy rights around this case, since one of the desired outcomes has already been achieved. We will, however, as now ourselves part of the Citizens For Free and Responsible Media, be available to lend any support required in realizing the objectives of this Forum.” So far we had adopted a multi-pronged approach: online activism, as well as direct communication with the channel or person concerned, as well as lobbying through other channels. The possibility of legal action is not ruled out, nor is the possibility of approaching corporations to ask them to re-consider advertising in shows that violate basic ethics and human dignity. A recent case we took up involves a reality show, Thori Si Bewafai on A-Plus TV. Within hours of our having started another petition the host of the show announced that he has quit the show, that the show was based on re-enactments
and that the channel had not given this disclosure as they were ethically bound to do, and as per their agreement with him. (Annexure 6) CFRM’s goal is not to get channels banned or to get TV hosts or journalists fired, but to encourage channels to evolve their own set of guidelines and code of ethics in conjunction with senior producers, journalists and concerned citizens, to ensure that privacy and human dignity are not violated. We urge them to make these guidelines public. We also urge them to incorporate a channel for media consumers to approach in case of complaint or redress, and appoint internal ombudsmen for this purpose. We also urge the industry to revise the current ratings system, and align the ‘quality of content’ with the ‘quantity of viewership.’ Citizens for Free and Responsible Media (CFRM), Pakistan http://www.facebook.com/C4FRM firstname.lastname@example.org
Letter 1: -----Original Message----From: [Dr. Kamran Iqbal] Sent: Monday, January 23, 2012 02:05 PM To: [Zafar Siddiqi] Cc: All signatories Dear Mr Siddiqi, We the undersigned would like to express our dismay at a morning show broadcast on Samaa TV, Subah Saverey Maya kay Sath, that exhibited highly intrusive, invasive and potentially irresponsible behavior on the part of the host - a kind of vigilantism no different than the Lal Masjid variety. The episode of Jan 17, 2012 in particular was highly disturbing in which the host Maya Khan went after couples in parks. As viewers and citizens, we not only protest this kind of moral policing, but also point out that this kind of programming is likely to also lead to legal action for violation of dignity of man under the Constitution - which legal action we, as signatories, will support, propagate and promote. We hope that Samaa TV will end this irresponsible programming immediately, and look forward to your early response. If we will not get any response from you by next 24 hours, we will have no other way but to take this issue to PEMRA directly and bring into further notice of public and relevant authorities.
Ali Kazmi, Student, Islamabad Ali Taj, Hedge Fund manager, Winchester Fund, Cerritos, California Ally Adnan, Director, Huawei technologies, Dallas, TX Amir Saiyid Amna Chishty, marketing consultant, Canada Asadullah Khan, Head of Programming, Capital TV, Islamabad Asif Alam, Financial Services Executive, New York, NY, USA Asif Sattar, Admin Operations at Kiers Facilities Ltd, Slough, England Beena Sarwar, journalist, Cambridge MA/ Karachi, Pakistan Danielle Gehrmann, linguist, Sydney, Australia Hassan Turi, student, Agricultural university, Peshawar Syed Hussein El-Edroos, Business Development & Training Manager, Islamabad Prof. Dr. Ijaz Khan, Chairman, Department of International Relations, University of Peshawar, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan Dr Kamran Iqbal, Self Employed · Karachi, Pakistan Kamyla Marvi, Citizen, Karachi Pakistan Meera Ghani, Concerned Citizen, Lahore Mohsin Sayeed, journalist, Karachi Muhammad Faraz Faheem, Senior Software Engineer, Karachi, Pakistan Munnazir Aziz, video producer, Lodhran, Pakistan Nadia Fazal Jamil, actress, Lahore, Pakistan Naheed Tofiq Mooraj, Proprietor of Candle Works, Karachi Noman Quadri, concerned citizen, Karachi Dr. Osama Siddique, Law Professor, Lahore Rabia Akhtar. PhD candidate, Kansas State University, USA/Rawalpindi, Pakistan Raza Bashir, corporate banking, Karachi Saadia Toor, Associate Professor of Sociology, City University of New York. Saba Hamid, actress, Lahore, Pakistan Sabiha Alwy, Educational Psychologist, New York Shayan Afzal Khan, concerned citizen, Islamabad Tammie Mahmud, Trainer & Education Program Developer, Boca Raton, FL Siraj Khan, Financial Executive, Boston MA USA
Letter 2: On Tue, Jan 24, 2012 at 12:05 AM, [Zafar Siddiqi] wrote: Dear All I have travelled to Khi to look at this matter and yesterday Maya apologised in her program for this. I can assure this will never happen again. Samaa is a progressive channel. There are certain other directives that have been put into place as of yesterday. I thank everyone concerned in bringing this matter to my attention. It's really appreciated. best regards Zafar Siddiqi Chairman CNBC Arabiya Chairman CNBC Africa President CNBC Pakistan
Letter 3: -----Original Message----From: [Dr. Kamran Iqbal] Sent: Friday, January 27, 2012 03:08 PM To: [Zafar Siddiqi] Cc: All signatories Subject: URGENT: People's Petition and Protest on Irresponsible, Intrusive and Invasive Programming by SAMAA TV Dear Mr. Siddiqi, We deeply appreciate your prompt reply and assurance that the kind of show broadcast on January 17th, 2012, 'Subh Sawerey Maya Ke Saath' on SAMAA TV will not take place again. We also appreciate your moral courage in ensuring that SAMAA TV made a public, unconditional apology broadcast on January 24th, 2012. However, we cannot accept Ms. Maya Khan's words broadcast that morning as an apology. She said she was sorry 'if' she had hurt anyone's feelings without any acknowledgement that what she and her team did was wrong, which involved lying to people, filming them without consent, making fun of aggrieved couples after chasing them, and demanding their nikah namas. In fact, her nonchalant attitude and words only compounded social and emotional wounds of the aggrieved citizens as she clearly lacked seriousness and genuine concern for the people and families she has caused harm through her deceitful, defamatory, intrusive and invasive programming, a value which is in complete contrast to your assertion that SAMAA TV is a channel with progressive values. To add salt to the wound, speaking to the New York Times on Tuesday, January 24th, 2012 (the same day as SAMAA TV broadcast her ‘apology’), Ms. Maya Khan ‘rejected her critics, calling them “an elite class that don’t even watch my show,” and said the show merely intended to highlight the dangers that unaccompanied youths face in Karachi’.” (NYT, Jan 26, 2012 http://nyti.ms/wmKAKh). In your email to us you said, “There are certain other directives that have been put into place as of yesterday” (i.e., January 23rd, 2012). Such directives need to be made public. Subsequent to our correspondence with you, we have been made aware of other programmes broadcast earlier as part of this appalling morning show series, in which Ms. Maya Khan pits mothers and daughters and harangues young girls in the most indecent ways along with her team (as in this show of October 2011 - http://youtu.be/gsaBNGc7zKE). There are probably many other shows that you probably have not yet seen and will be horrified, as we were, on seeing, that objectify women ‘Beti ka Achar -http://youtu.be/uHMuaF5eeVA) and put them at real risk of being killed for ‘honour’ (‘Beti ki kari’ -http://youtu.be/gsaBNGc7zKE). We do not accept the disclaimers that ran in some of these programmes that SAMAA TV is not responsible
for the content. In the absence of genuine apology and public information about corrective policy directives, and compensation to affected families, we will have to conclude that SAMAA TV is not sincere in its apology, and plans to continue with programming that blatantly violates the constitutional rights of Pakistani citizens as well as basic journalistic ethics and constitutes a case of journalistic malpractice. In that case, it will become incumbent upon us, as conscientious citizens of Pakistan, to broaden our movement until corrective policies are put in place and made public along with a visible, genuine and unqualified apology from Ms. Maya Khan, specifically taking back her words and actions and accepting her misconducts, not just with regards to the show of January 17th, 2012 but also for previous shows in which she has disrespected families, media consumers and viewers alike. We, the undersigned, as well as the over 5,000 signatories of the online petition (http://bit.ly/zRmPNZ) that has been communicated to you, are ready to lobby with corporations (and their international offices if need be), that are advertising on SAMAA TV, asking them to look into this issue before advertising with this program and channel. We also reserve the right to approach to these brands if the need arises. However, judging by your prompt response and by the apology broadcast on SAMA TV your behest, it appears that you, Mr. Zafar Siddiqi, while being genuinely well-meaning, have been misled by your producers (your senior producer Sohail Zaidi, for example, defended the program and told BBC Urdu Radio that he was not answerable to anyone -http://bit.ly/xMc8sY). Therefore we urge you to: 1. Make public the written corrective directives and guidelines that have been put in place, proactively leading by example as a channel with conscience which is reponsible and cares about its viewers and their sentiments. 2. Ensure a serious, genuine and unqualified apology from Ms. Maya Khan in which she accepts her deliberate misconduct and violation of the affected people, families, media consumers, viewers and the law. 3. Take this appalling show ‘Subh Sawery Maya ke Saath’ off air, as its very premise is based on the concept of moral policing and interference in people’s personal lives. 4. Ensure that Ms. Maya Khan and all your other reporters, producers and hosts comply with the new directives in future, whether they are part of the news team or the entertainment team. SAMAA TV has many credits to its name that we appreciate, and we as media consumers,
genuinely want to see this channel realise its potential as a truly progressive channel. We assure you that we will support you in the mission to translate quality into greater viewership based on dignity, fairness, respect and equal rights, not tainted by substandard hosts and programming. You may want to have a look at the code of conduct guidelines of the Society of Professional Journalists, to consult while drafting their own guidelines: http://www.spj.org/ethicscode.asp. Thank you, Sincerely:
Ali Kazmi, Student, Islamabad Ali Taj, Hedge Fund manager, Winchester Fund, Cerritos, California Ally Adnan, Director, Huawei technologies, Dallas, TX Amna Chishty, marketing consultant, Canada Asadullah Khan, Head of Programming, Capital TV, Islamabad Asif Alam, Financial Services Executive, New York, NY, USA Asif Sattar, Admin Operations at Kiers Facilities Ltd, Slough, England Dr Awab Alvi, Orthodontist & Social media Activist, Karachi Beena Sarwar, journalist, Cambridge MA/ Karachi, Pakistan Danielle Gehrmann, linguist, Sydney, Australia Hassan Turi, student, Agricultural university, Peshawar Syed Hussein El-Edroos, Business Development & Training Manager, Islamabad Prof. Dr. Ijaz Khan, Chairman, Department of International Relations, University of Peshawar, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan Dr Kamran Iqbal, Self Employed · Karachi, Pakistan Kamyla Marvi, Citizen, Karachi Pakistan Meera Ghani, Concerned Citizen, Lahore Mira Hashmi, film critic and teacher, Lahore Mohsin Sayeed, journalist, Karachi Muhammad Faraz Faheem, Senior Software Engineer, Karachi, Pakistan Munnazir Aziz, video producer, Lodhran, Pakistan Nadia Fazal Jamil, actor, Lahore, Pakistan Nadir El-Edroos, teacher, London, UK. Naheed Tofiq Mooraj, Proprietor of Candle Works, Karachi Nighat Dad, advocate, Lahore Noman Quadri, concerned citizen, Karachi Dr. Osama Siddique, Law Professor, Lahore Rabia Akhtar. PhD candidate, Kansas State University, USA/Rawalpindi, Pakistan Raza Bashir, corporate banking, Karachi, Pakistan Saadia Toor, professor, New York, Sahar Habib Ghazi, Journalist, Palo Alto, California Shah Hayat Ahmad, Citizen, Karachi, Pakistan Saba Hamid, actor, Lahore, Pakistan Sabiha Alwy, Educational Psychologist, New York Shah Nawaz, student, Memon Goth, Malir, Karachi Shayan Afzal Khan, concerned citizen, Islamabad Siraj Khan, Financial Executive, Boston MA USA Tammie Mahmud, Trainer & Education Program Developer, Boca Raton, FL
Letter 4: -----Original Message----From: [Zafar Siddiqi] Date: Sat, Jan 28, 2012 at 12:28 PM Subject: Re: URGENT: People's Petition and Protest on Irresponsible, Intrusive and Invasive Programming by SAMAA TV To: [Dr. Kamran Iqbal] Cc: All signatories Dear All Your feedback is appreciated.As a responsible corporate citizen, Samaa TV did what was required under the circumstances. We do not and have not in the past or intend to in the future to take our viewership or reporting requirements without the seriousness that they deserve. You would appreciate that as an organisation with a functioning management team, we had to conduct certain legal requirements over the past week and internal review processes (which are operational in nature) before procedding further. As a result of which I can inform you: 1 We asked Maya to apologise unconditionally which she did not. 2 The CEO asked her to do that on friday which she refused. As a result of which the following will be put in place on Monday,Jan 30th. 1 Maya and her team will receive termination notices. 2 Her show is being stopped from Monday morning. Our deeds and actions taken since this episode occured are there for the record and hope this will settle issues as far as the station is concerned. A lot has been written about the race for ratings..Well, we do absolve such behaviour irrespective of ratings that the show was getting. With best regards and thank you for your understanding. Zafar Siddiqi Chairman CNBC Arabiya Chairman CNBC Africa President CNBC Pakistan
Letter 5: -----Original Message----From: [Dr. Kamran Iqbal] Sent: Sat, Jan 28, 2012 at 11:21 PM To: [Zafar Siddiqi] Cc: All signatories Dear Mr. Siddiqi, Thank you for your prompt and courageous response. We appreciate the moral courage of SAMAA TV’s stance. We hope you will continue to lead by example in developing a code of ethics and directives, which you have issued for your channel that we urge, should be made public on your website. You may want to have a look at the code of conduct guidelines of the Society of Professional Journalists, to consult while drafting your guidelines: http://www.spj.org/ethicscode.asp. Also, we would like to mention here that in Ms. Maya Khan's team which is being terminated innocent people should not be axed, and protection for those lower ranking workers, who had no say in what Ms. Maya was doing should duly be taken care of and should not be penalized or terminated. We will support you in taking the step to make directives and code of ethics and conduct guidelines made public. As a citizen media consumer group, would promote and spread these improvements in other channels one by one as there had been numerous examples which deserve similar attention and correction and it is clear that flaw has been at policy design level. A group of us would be happy to meet you and/or anyone you designate to initiate a discussion on this if you desire.
We look forward to seeing the directives on your website to share with the public.
Sincerely, All Signatories
URL for this particular post (http://www.facebook.com/C4FRM/posts/177936162312489) Text of Post:
Tuesday, Jan 31, 2012 at 6:21 PM
SHAMOON ABBASI I PERSONALLY AGREE AND SUPPORT THE IDEA OF DISCOURAGING THESE KIND OF SHOWS ..i t was a mistake signing such show and i have been briefed somthing else and the stories were not taking place in my presence i was only brought to the last scene to give my verdicts that flared this whole situation !
Our Reply to Shamoon (may be viewed on the post and on his wall):
On the post Tuesday, Jan 31, 2012 at 7:11 PM (http://www.facebook.com/C4FRM/posts/177936162312489) On his wall Tuesday, Jan 31, 2012 at 7:14 PM (http://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=10150498229835989&id=22360015988) Dear Shamoon, Thank you for having the moral courage to take such a step. We highly appreciate your proactive response - we ourselves were appalled at such a show taking place. Your person was never intended as the target of any campaign but instead the broader framework or concept of that show was. The ethics of misrepresenting reenactments as reality television was truly in question. The broader repercussions that could have resulted from such a program being aired were a matter of major concern. Such demonstration of responsible behavior is heartening. You too have played a part in ensuring that media remain free and responsible in Pakistan. Thank you, Citizens for Free and Responsible Media Pakistan Decreasing the Social Cost of Silence