Geo and Jang Media Group's central offices in Karachi were attacked on Sunday by a violent mob, enraged over an edited video snippet from a television programme that had reportedly hurt their sentiments, but for which an apology and clarification had already been issued by the media house as well as the anchor.
Protesters that had gathered nearby got violent and broke a walkthrough gate installed at the entrance of the building, besides the entrance door.
Receptionists as well as other staff inside the building were roughed up and chairs were tossed around, footage showed.
According to Geo News Karachi Bureau Chief Faheem Siddiqui, protesters attacked the building "under an elaborate plot".
He said a protest had been announced in advance but "there were no law enforcement officers present" and no action was taken under the protesters when they attacked.
The protesters were enraged over a video from a Geo News programme, the edited version of which has gone viral on social media, said Siddiqui.
"What you see on social media is not how it was said on the show," he said, adding that Geo News had also aired a clarification as well as an apology on the same show.
"What remains to be known is who these protesters are," he added.
Anchor Irshad Bhatti from television show "Khabarnaak" clarified that his show is one of comedy and satire and "Sindh and Sindhis are part of his identity as is any other province."
"Ladies and gentleman, welcome. I wish to state here, that in the last one or two shows, our brothers from Sindh, where on the one hand showed us a lot of appreciation and gave us a lot of love, on the other, expressed reservations against a sentence or two.
"I wish to tell everyone this is a programme of satire and comedy, and the way Punjab, KP, Balochistan, GB, Azad Kashmir are dear to me, Sindh and Sindhis are a part of my identity. My life is dedicated to Sindh and Sindhis," he said.
Managing Director Geo News Azhar Abbas, sharing footage of the damage left in the wake of the attack, wrote: "Everyone has right to peaceful protest. We will protect and support that right. But doing violence and taking the law into their own hands, regardless of the cause, can’t be tolerated. Dialogue is answer to all issues — not violence."
Sindh information minister Nasir Hussain Shah arrived at the venue and proceeded to resolve the matter by speaking to the protesters.
He had earlier also appeared on air to express solidarity with the media group.
When asked why police did not act promptly, Shah said he strongly condemns such violence. "I spoke to the SSP and I was told the protest was to head from Shaheen Complex to Press Club but they came this way."
He said everyone has a right to protest but no one has the right to harm anyone. "Action will be taken against whoever took the law into their hands."
The information minister said that Chief Minister Sindh Murad Ali Shah has also ordered "strict action" to be taken against all those found involved.
Federal Minister for Information Shibli Faraz, speaking to Geo News, said that violence is not acceptable under any circumstances.
"If someone has any grievance or reservations, they always have the choice to launch a formal protest [...] I have found out that the matter pertains to a show where some light humour was aired.
"The immediate responsibility is that of the Sindh government [...] why were no security forces available?" he asked.
Karachi Press Club (KPC) President Fazil Jamili expressed his sadness over the attack and condemned the move.
"Any opinion expressed by an analyst is his own and is not the opinion of the media house. And if any anchor's words hurt someone [...] I saw Geo News had aired an apology as well. After that, the matter should have been laid to rest.
"But to create an issue out of it and to use it to propel a campaign against Geo, to bring a mob to the office and to vandalise the building, to attack the staff, is in no way acceptable.
"The Press Club strongly condemns this incident and we are investigating at our own end which elements were behind such an attack, who targeted such a big media house," he said.
Jamili said the Sindh government must ensure a transparent inquiry and regretted that the police were unable to prevent such an escalation of violence.
"The mob is still present outside the office. I would say the police should come and arrest them," he added.
The KPC president said that if all the journalist fraternity unites at a time like this, "no one would dare make such a move in the future".
Governor Sindh Imran Ismail said it was an unfortunate incident that had occurred and expressed his sympathies.
"We must understand people's sensitivities while airing things on our channels. Something occurred that hurt people's sentiments. As far as I know, an apology and clarification was given by Geo so this matter should have been let go of.
"They could have still protested peacefully with banners, but violence can never be supported. So to all those protesting outside, I request: Please accept Geo's apology and clarification. Forgive whatever transpired. This goes completely against the hospitality and love for people that are part and parcel of Sindh's values and culture," Imran said.
The governor was surprised to know police has not yet sprung into action. He said he would ask the Inspector General of Police to look into the matter immediately and to send officers for the staff's protection.
Minister for Interior Sheikh Rasheed condemned the attack on Geo News' building and termed it a "cowardly act".
"The government fully believes in freedom of the press," Rasheed said, adding: "I hope Sindh government will ensure the security of the Jang, Geo office."
He said his ministry will extend all possible support.
Minister for Science and Technology Fawad Chaudhry also condemned the attack and demanded that police take action against those responsible.
"A disagreement does not mean you round up 200-400 people and attack a place," he said.
Punjab Chief Minister Sardar Usman Buzdar strongly condemned the attack, terming it as attack on freedom of expression.
He also expressed solidarity with Geo and Jang, a handout said.
Buzdar said that incumbent government believes in the freedom of media.
PML-N spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb, condemning the incident, said it must be probed in a transparent and unbiased manner. "We express our solidarity with Geo News," she said.
PPP MPA Awais Qadir Shah said that it is highly condemnable that an attack was carried out under the pretext of a protest. "This is a highly unfortunate incident which can not be condemned enough," he said.
Shah said that Peoples Party supports freedom of expression and a fair investigation of the incident.
Qaumi Watan Party spokesperson Ahmed Jadoon condemning the attack, said that elements involved should be brought to justice.
PML-Q President Chaudhry Shujaat and Speaker Punjab Assembly Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi also condemned the violence.
MQM convener Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui it is wholly unacceptable that a media house be attacked in such a manner under the guise of a protest. He said that the absence of police officers at the time of the attack raises a lot of questions.
The Association of Electronic Media Editors and News Directors (AEMEND) issued a statement strongly condemning the violent attack on the Karachi offices of Geo News "by a mob armed with clubs and stones".
"AEMEND believes in people’s inalienable right to peaceful protest but using violence under the pretext of protest is unacceptable and is a clear violation of law," read the statement.
The association urged the provincial government to "take immediate action" against who vandalised the media office and subjected its staff to violence.
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