Jang/Geo group issues legal notice to Imran Khan over venomous campaign

Failure to respond to notice will lead to the initiation of civil and criminal cases in the courts against Khan


ISLAMABAD: Opposition leader Imran Khan has been served with a legal notice demanding that he issue an unconditional public apology and pay Rs 1 billion in “token” damages for making numerous defamatory statements against the Jang-Geo Group and its Chief Executive and Editor-in-Chief Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman over the last four years.

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party chairman Khan has been given 14 days to comply with the legal notice issued on Saturday by lawyers representing Jang-Geo Group Chief Executive and Editor-in-Chief Mir Shakil-ur-Rehman.

Failure to do so would lead to the initiation of civil and criminal cases in the courts against Khan, notably under section 8 of the Defamation Ordinance 2002.

Advocate Amir Abdullah Abbasi served the notice to Khan at his residential addresses in Lahore’s Zaman Park and the Bani Gala suburb of Islamabad.

The legal notice was issued in response to many “completely false and misleading... highly defamatory, disparaging and damaging” accusations intermittently made by Khan against the Jang-Geo Group and its chief executive since 2014.

“As a result of your recent representations, statements and expressions on electronic and print media and other forums and the resultant impressions, innuendoes and insinuations that have followed, grave defamation of Jang Group has been committed by you before an audience of millions of viewers and readers both in Pakistan and abroad,” the notice said.

“The allegations are completely false and unfounded and evidently motivated. Your expressions have personal and ulterior motives and objectives, have malice in its construct and portray your biased bend of mind towards Jang Group,” it said.

The legal notice chronologically lists the allegations made by Khan against the Jang-Geo Group, providing evidence of them in the form of transcripts of the defamatory statements he has made during public and media engagements over the past four years.

Among the many unsubstantiated allegations made by Khan, he has accused Pakistan’s leading media house of manipulating the 2013 general election results in favour of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz party.

Similarly, Khan has accused the Jang-Geo Group of misreporting events surrounding the Supreme Court hearing into the ‘Panama Papers’ disclosures, supposedly in an attempt to shield the then prime minister Nawaz Sharif from corruption charges and allegedly defame the judiciary.

Khan has chosen to ignore the fact that his petition to the Supreme Court and its subsequent proceedings would not have been possible had the facts contained in the Panama Papers not been uncovered by Jang-Geo Group journalists in the first instance.

Likewise, Khan has accused the Jang-Geo Group of illegally acquiring broadcast rights for the coverage of the 2017 limited-overs cricket series between Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

With such baseless defamatory remarks failing to gain traction, Khan has also stooped to defaming the Jang-Geo Group as an allegedly treasonous organisation working in tandem with Pakistan’s enemies in India and the United States.

In doing so, Khan has seriously endangered the lives of Jang-Geo Group’s employees.

“Your expressions also are such that these amount to direct provocation and incitement to the members of the public, particularly your political supporters and workers, to act against the Jang Group, which seriously endanger life, property and business of the group and those associated and affiliated with it,” said the legal notice served to Khan on Saturday.

Unable to corroborate any of his defamatory statements, Khan has resorted to the personal vilification of Jang-Geo Group Chief Executive and Editor-in-Chief Mir Shakil-ur-Rehman, whom he has characterised as a “blackmailer”, “media godfather” and “pharoah”, and accused of intimidation.

Despite the untold damage caused by Khan’s slanderous campaign, the management of the Jang-Geo Group has been hesitant to initiate legal proceedings against Khan because of its commitment to the democratic principle of freedom of expression.

Rather than responding in kind, the Jang-Geo Group has upheld its ethical credentials by maintaining its substantial, impartial coverage of Khan and his PTI party.

The Jang-Geo Group has offered to submit to an independent, impartial inquiry into the accusations made against it by Khan, who has refused to participate for obvious reasons.

“The Jang Group acted with perseverance and decided not to initiate a legal action for defamation against you, despite highly objectionable and provocative allegations and showed utmost patience, perseverance and restraint,” the legal notice said.

“Such (a) course was adopted by Jang Group, believing that someday wisdom would prevail amongst the leadership of PTI and the party would stop its policy of regression and intolerance towards difference of opinion and dissent.”

The legal notice issued on behalf of the Jang-Geo Group has warned Khan to respond by February 3, failing which court proceedings will be initiated against him.

Details of the legal notice against Imran Khan can be read here.