Thursday, 7 January 2016

Questions for Najam Sethi

Najam Sethi’s weekly publication, The Friday Times, recently attacked a teenage gang rape victim in their gossip column “Such Gup”. Most of his colleagues from among the journalist/media community ignored this despite much comment on social media. Still some, mostly women, called it out for what it was and demanded an apology, which has resulted in this clarification from TFT.

Even when they were apparently warned of the consequences, that presumably kept others quiet.

The “clarification” which is based on falsifications basically says TFT was right to slander the victim and devotes the more sizeable portion to lamenting the fact that Mr Sethi has come under fire and his motivations questioned.

The exact line at the end reads:

“As the DAWN editorial noted on Jan 5: “There is surely a need for civil society to counter the urge to resort to the sensational through debate and popular consensus”. To this we would add the quest to ascertain the truth before accusing someone or attributing motives to anyone.”

This is what Mr Sethi (TFT have not identified the writer, addressing the chief editor who's stood by what was written) wrote in the initial Such Gup column, from the first para:

“The girl arranged to meet her boyfriend, a young man connected to the ruling party, at the hotel for a tryst and while there, the couple had an argument, after which there was a heated exchange of words followed by blows.”

That is Mr Sethi accusing the 15 year old rape victim of going to, what he described earlier as a “seedy hotel”, with the motive of a “tryst”. While the rapist, is referred to as her boyfriend. Later on in the passage the two are referred to as “the couple”. In fact, throughout the initial Such Gup piece, the rapist PMLN office holder is referred to solely as the “boyfriend”. Not as the rapist, not as the criminal, not even as the accused. No mention is made of the fact that an acquaintance or any kind of relationship between a rapist and the victim does not in any way condone or dilute the crime.

Without going into a complete overview of the original Such Gup piece, here are some issues that most of us were expecting an unconditional apology for:

1. Suggesting that the girl went to the hotel with the intention of having sex with the rapist.
2. Falsely claiming that the beating the girl received was because of an “argument”. 
3. Leaving the matter of the girl being drugged completely unaddressed, a detail which would invalidate most of the claims in the article.
4. Falsely claiming that the girl was able to move around and came out of the room when the rapist left the hotel, even though police recovered her in a drugged, unconscious state. 
5. Suggesting that DNA evidence can determine consent.
6. Falsely claiming that the DNA tests proved the girl had consensual sex with the rapist.
7. Falsely claiming that there was no evidence of any “extraneous encounters”. 
8. Repeatedly suggesting that there was no rape and the minor girl had consensual sex with the rapist from PMLN.

Coming back to the clarification itself, it raises more questions and answers none; basically ignoring every one of the points identified above. TFT cite a Dawn news item that provides some details of the report prepared by an inquiry team to vindicate their stance. After cherry picking irrelevant details of the news item, TFT contend that their Such Gup column “says much the same thing”.

Here’s what the Such Gup column said:

“The tests proved that the couple had been engaged in a consenting relationship, and that there was no evidence of any extraneous encounters.”

Here’s the first line from the Dawn news item they have cited to vindicate themselves (Not making it up link is available):

Other details from the inquiry report mentioned in the Dawn news item include; two semen samples were recovered, the girl was sodomized, the girl was drugged before being assaulted. This is where the real questions arise.

If Mr Sethi, or his mole, were actually privy to the contents of the report, as they claimed in the initial Such Gup piece, why did they falsely assert that a “consenting relationship” had been proved?

If Mr Sethi, or his mole, read the report which said there were multiple samples of semen, why did they claim it was not a gang rape and there was no evidence of “extraneous encounters”?

If Mr Sethi, or his mole, read the report that said the girl was drugged why did they leave out that information in the Such Gup column?

If Mr Sethi, or his mole, read the report that concluded the girl was assaulted by two people and drugged beforehand, why did they suggest that she went to the hotel with the intention of having sex and what happened to her was with her consent?

Hopefully the TFT can answer these questions in a clarification of their clarification, and issue an unconditional apology for the initial Such Gup piece.

Cautionary tale:

There was another girl. Her name was Halima. She was among a few who had accused Multan Cricket Club officials of sexual harassment. As a result they had been banned from playing by the MCC. Anchor Imran Khan highlighted the issue, but then PCB chairman Najam Sethi stopped him from raising it anymore.

The 15 year old girl who was the subject of Such Gup tried to commit suicide a few days ago. Luckily she survived the attempt, but if she were to go down that path again, it will be the second teenage girl Najam Sethi has had a hand in driving to suicide.