As a mark of protest against the move to ban Dr Shahid Masood’s programme Meray Mutabiq, I withdraw my name from the list of journalists invited to accompany Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani on his official visit to Germany and the UK from November 30 to December 4. It does not mean that I agree with Dr Masood’s views, but it is the most undemocratic way and use of dictatorial tactics to silence someone’s voice that has hurt me. I hope the prime minister will order an investigation into the matter and allow Dr Masood to express his views on air. I thank you, Mr Gilani, for inviting me, but after this action my conscience does not allow me to undertake that journey.
Dr Masood’s language and views, at times, violate the generally accepted norms of journalism, but the answer is not to gag the press like General (r) Pervez Musharraf did. He too had approached the UAE government in November 2007 to dislodge Geo and ARY from Dubai.
Shahid Masood has always been an emotional person. I know him since he was in Sindh Medical College. He used to bring press releases of the Peoples Doctors Forum, PPP’s medical wing, while I was working in an evening newspaper in Karachi. I met him first during a hunger strike by young medical doctors outside Karachi Press Club. He was a great admirer of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Benazir Bhutto. Later, I came to know that he went to London and for sometime also worked at the Pakistan Peoples Party Secretariat. During his stay in London, he started writing for an Urdu evening newspaper in Karachi before joining ARY. I may be mistaken, but he too was a ‘jiyala’.
When he joined the channel, the electronic media was in its infancy but his programme “Views on News” started getting a large viewership. The Iraq war gave him the real boost. Dr Masood’s language skills and oratory made him the most popular anchor in the early years of the electronic media in Pakistan. At the same time many started believing that his views had tilted from left to centre, and afterwards from centre to right. During this period he hardly ever cared about the established journalistic norms, but within years he stole the show and became the head of that news channel.
Later, he joined Geo and did a successful stint there. Also Geo TV never ‘owned’ his programme, meaning that he was free to speak his mind and the channel saved itself from any possible legal battle. I never liked his joining the state-controlled media organisation and he suffered a credibility loss when he became its managing director – a post he should have never accepted. He remained close to President Asif Ali Zardari for sometime and would not have left the job had Sherry Rehman not been the information minister. Through Meray Mutabiq-II, he made a comeback and to his luck President Zardari’s poor decision of not restoring the deposed judges gave a real boost to his programme’s ratings.
The naive move of President Zardari’s camp to use the influence of the UAE authorities will only help Dr Shahid Masood, and the government will be the ultimate loser. As far as life threats to Dr Shahid Masood are concerned I think he should return to Pakistan and resume his programme from here. There are journalists in Pakistan who have bravely faced life threats. My only question, however, is that why recently Dr Masood and Shaheen Sehbai went to meet Asif Zardari as reported by Hamid Mir. All I want to say to Dr Masood is that “Life and death are in the hands of God. Let’s face it, Doctor sahib.”
Ex-secretary general, PFUJ,