Saturday, September 13, 2008

Taking Geo to task

Most people must be aware of what happened on 7 September 2008. Dr. Aamir Liaquat Hussain, host of Geo TV's popular religious show, Aalim Online, said on his show that the murder of all Ahmadis is mandated by Islamic teachings. His remarks were followed by the murder of two Ahmadis, one in Nawabshah and one in Mirpurkhas, by unknown individuals.

This incident shocked me to the core. I can understand Baitullah Mehsud setting up an illegal radio station and preaching hatred and violence through it, but it is inconceivable to me how Geo TV, perhaps the most popular and trusted news channels in Pakistan, could air such malevolent statements.

In previous posts, I have strongly supported freedom of the press, but the line must be drawn at instigation to violence. We as a nation tend to be intolerant of religious differences but we are not Nazi Germany that the mainstream media can with impunity talk about the wholesale extermination of a religious minority.

As far as I know, Geo TV has neither cancelled this hate-preaching show, nor offered a public apology for 7 September. The very same news channel that last year, during the Emergency, was the people's hero, has today fallen to an astonishing low.

But I think that this event is the moment of truth for urban moderates and liberals. So far we have only bemoaned hate-mongering in that is prevalent in the far-flung regions of our country. It was not in our power to do anything concrete to prevent that. Now, on the other hand, a media group from our midst is preaching hate and advocating violence. We are all in a position to influence Geo TV because our tuning in to their channel is what brings them money. If we call and email Geo to express our condemnation it will have to listen and respond. Now is the time for us to act on our beliefs and do something about the extremism that is rotting our society. We, members of civil society, must act firmly and decisively against Geo TV so that other media outlets will be wary of airing such inflammatory garbage.

For more details on the incident, please visit the Asian Human Rights Commission's website. It gives you the option of sending a letter of appeal to government officials, urging them to look into the matter. I, however, would suggest that you call or email Geo directly and demand an explanation, express your condemnation and/or ask for a public apology and for the cancellation of Aalim Online.

Whatever you do, please do not sit back and let this one slide.

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