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LONDON: Eurasiafuture.com and Adam Garrie (the the director and the person responsible for the content on the website), who alleged that Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman, Geo News and Jang Group’s Editor-in-Chief, had links with Cambridge Analytica firm, have both issued unreserved apologies, retraction of all allegations and an undertaking not to repeat any false allegations ever again.
In the next phase of the case, notices have also been sent by Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman to some prominent politicians of Pakistan who picked up Tayyab Baloch’s articles from the website and made them viral on social media. Pakistani journalist Tayyab Baloch has been writing for this website permanently. He works for private TV channels and is also president of Supreme Court Reporters Association.
Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman and Jang Group initiated legal action against Eurasiafuture.com and Adam Garrie in Britain immediately after the website carried four articles by writer Tayyab Baloch, from Islamabad, making a number of completely untrue allegations without any evidence to support the far-fetched claims that the former premier Nawaz Sharif had hired services of Cambridge Analytica to target judiciary and that Jang Group were involved with the action of Cambridge Analytica.
Jang Group in London contacted Eurasiafuture.com’s Adam Garrie that either he should publish proofs to back up allegations made in the said articles or else face defamation case in London High Court on immediate terms.
In these articles, it was alleged that Jang/Geo Editor-in-Chief Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman, in connivance with Nawaz Sharif, built a narrative for Greater Punjab. Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman was accused of stepping up Pashtun movement and also put, through fake news, blame of Mumabi attacks on Pakistan. According to these articles, patriotic circles as well as some quarters of the Pak army accuse Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman and Jang/Geo group of being foreign agents and promoting Western agenda in Pakistan. Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman was termed “media godfather” in these articles. It was also alleged that Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman had admitted to having campaigned against the judiciary and institutions.
It was also alleged that the government advertisements are distributed through Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman and the Pakistan Broadcasters Association (PBA). Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman was also accused of openly conspiring against Axact channels with the help of Nawaz Sharif. It was alleged that Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman used his influence on the government machinery to block the pro-state narrative of Axact channels. Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman was also accused of spreading false narrative against Axact channels.
It was further alleged that Nawaz Sharif had given Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman media publicity contract, and the latter was behind every political success of the former.
It may be mentioned that Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman has also moved an Islamabad court which has sought reply from Tayyab Baloch. Tayyab has not submitted his reply to court so far despite passage of a month.
Adam Garrie, after consulting lawyers and failing to get any proofs from Tayyab Baloch, agreed to publish a detailed apology and retraction on the front page of the Eurasiafuture.com website which will remain there for 90 days.
Adam Garrie says in the apology: “I requested the author of the Articles Mr Tayyab Baloch to provide any evidence to substantiate the serious and defamatory allegations made in the Articles against Mr Mir Shakil ur Rahman and/or Jang Group. Mr Tayyab Baloch refused and therefore could not and did not provide any such proof and so I have concluded that there was and is no evidence and that each the allegations made in the Articles against Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman and/or the Jang Group were wholly false, fabricated, malicious and highly defamatory of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman and/or Jang Group.”
He says in the apology that his team’s own investigation established that the articles were baseless. “I have also investigated each of the allegations made in the Articles and found them to be completely false, malicious and fabricated. By way of example only and to illustrate this, I found no evidence whatsoever to connect Cambridge Analytica with Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman, Jang Group or his media conglomerate, nor is there any link of international funding of his media outlets to support any international political propaganda.”
“Given the above I therefore consider it appropriate to make this retraction and unreserved apology to Mr Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman, Geo TV and the Jang Group.
I hereby irrevocably, completely and unreservedly retract and revoke each and every allegation made against Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman and/or Geo TV and/or the Jang Group in the Articles as such allegations were and are wholly false, malicious, fabricated and highly defamatory.”
Adam Garrie confirmed that he has given an undertaking not to repeat such allegations again. “I have given an undertaking to Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman, Geo TV and the Jang Group to never repeat (directly or indirectly or by way of innuendo) any of the allegations, defamatory statements or statements mentioned in the Articles and immediately do whatever is necessary to remove any links to the Articles on any search engine, social media or any other form of communication or other media.
“I unreservedly apologise to Mr Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman, Geo TV and the Jang Group for the wholly false, fabricated, malicious and defamatory allegations made against him/them and for any harm and/ or distress that may have suffered or been caused to him, any of his family or businesses. The above retraction and apology has been given freely and without any undue influence of any type. I have had the opportunity to take independent legal advice.”
Adam Garrie visited the offices of Jang and Geo in London to record a video interview and apology explaining his regret and how, according to him, he had been duped into publishing a false conspiracy theory.
Adam Garrie said in the interview that he asked Tayyab Baloch to hand over to him the evidence to substantiate his claims but he (Tayyab Baloch) was “unable to do so by any stretch of the logical imagination”.
Adam Garrie said: “Tayyab Baloch’s only response was that it (evidence) will all come out one day God willing”. The only conclusion that I reached was that his pieces were based on conspiracy theories, rather than reality, and I find it very unfortunate. He couldn’t back up his claims. The articles were false and unfortunately such pieces shouldn’t have been published in the first place.”
Adam Garrie said that he will not be publishing anything further from Tayyab Baloch “unless he does the right thing and writes an apology”. He said that a website about political analysis shouldn’t be used for “any nefarious political purposes for someone political gains”.
He added: “I feel that my website has been used to pursue (Tayyab Baloch’s) own conspiracy theory and his own agenda and of course all people have their own agenda and problem is that I was given information I was told that it was true, I was told that there is mountains of evidence to support it and when it turned out to be dubious. If I knew what I know now, I would have never even looked at it let alone considering publishing it. So he has done a great disservice to the website and it’s my duty to inform our readers.”
Adam Garrie explained that he was served a legal notice by Mir Shakil-ur-Rehman after the articles were published on the website. “I obviously did my research thoroughly and found that Mr Rahman was telling the truth.”
“I found zero link of any kind between Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman, Jang, Geo and Cambridge Analaytica of any companies linked to Cambridge Analytica. So the entire notion of any connection between the two simply doesn’t exist.”
Adam Garrie explained that he respected the fact he was allowed by Jang Group to engage in a constructive dialogue. “I respect the fact that Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman allowed me to engage in a constructive dialogue with him and so I like to apologise to Mir Shakil personally and for giving me the opportunity to conduct this dialogue because it’s always important. It’s a personal sadness for me that I ever made the mistake of publishing those totally baseless pieces. It’s a personal goal for me that I correct a wrong done in a constructive way that can hopefully open people’s eyes. I believe that no propaganda pieces should be published and people should be able to focus on concrete issues and not conspiracy theories.
“My concluding hope is that what began as a bad situation ended on a positive note. Shame is only with those who refuse to apologise and refuse to do the correct thing.”
The Eurasiafuture.com’s director said that his apology to Jang Group’s Chief Executive will remain on the website for three months to “explain my feelings as how I felt betrayed and how I betrayed the trust of my readers which of course I regret deeply. I have written to others who lifted the same defamatory articles from my website and published them on their pages, its in no one’s interest to repeat these lies”.
The four articles by Tayyab Baloch - all withdrawn now, replaced with a profound apology–that focused on Mir Shakil-ur-Rehman included: Hacking Democracy – Cambridge Analytica Turns to Pakistan (9 march 2018); Western Firm Cambridge Analytica is Meddling in Pakistan’s Democracy – Not Russia (18 March 2018); Data-War Poses Hybrid Threats to Pakistan’s Sovereignty (23 March 2018); Nawaz Sharif Uses Foreign Firm to Meddle in Election and Slander Judiciary (28 February 2018). Each of the articles contained serious and defamatory allegations against Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman and the Jang Group.
The Cambridge Analytica scandal rocked western capitals after The New York Times and The Guardian, on March 17, published investigative news stories based on the information provided by whistle-blower Christopher Wylie that the “data-mining” and “political strategy” firm called Cambridge Analytica that worked on US president Donald Trump’s team and the winning Brexit campaign harvested data of as many as 50 million Facebook users without their permission and therefore breached data and confidence of users. Christopher Wylie, who previously worked for Cambridge Analaytica, said that the disgraced firm used that data to analyse users’ behaviour patterns through which their clients gained unfair advantage by deeply targeting the users for the campaigns.
The scandal dominated news in the west and rest of the world and although nothing was said about Pakistan but speculations were made that similar tactics could have been used for Pakistan as well. To influence campaigns.
The articles, now withdrawn and retracted, on Eurasiafuture.com alleged that PML-N and former prime minister Nawaz Sharif had hired Cambridge Analytica firm to run campaign against Pakistan’s judiciary and to steal next elections. Several talk shows were done the basis of same conspiracy theory making similar allegations – all of them now proven completely wrong and a profound apology issued.
In the end of 2016, Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman won a landmark case at London High Court against ARY Network after suing the channel for similar allegations. Justice Sir Eady had ruled that allegations made by ARY in dozens of its shows – alleging that Jang and Geo received foreign funding and worked against Pakistan – were completely baseless and there was no evidence to back up the claims made on ARY. The channel was forced by London High Court through a court order to issue an apology to Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman. ARY accepted in the court that it had no evidence to back up its claims and that the allegations that it made were without any foundation.