Dawn CEO Hameed Haroon, through his lawyer, sent a legal notice to filmmaker Jamshed Mahmood on Monday under Section 8 of the Defamation Ordinance 2002, asking for an unconditional public apology and retraction of rape allegations.
Talking to Dawn.com, the director, popularly known as Jami, said that he had received the notice and was in the process of reading through it. He added, however, that an apology was not “even a distant possibility”.
“There is a lot that needs to be done for victims of sexual harassment and for future victims,” said Jami, who is currently in the United States. He also said that he had addressed many of the points raised in Haroon’s notice in his previous posts on social media.
Taking to Twitter, he added: “It is self-censorship that hurts me the most than allegations of me joining the establishment.”
Last year in October, Jami came forward with the accusation that he was raped by a “media tycoon” 13 years ago and on December 28, named Haroon as his alleged rapist.
In response, Haroon had issued a statement categorically rejecting the rape accusations and saying he would initiate legal action.
The four-page-long legal notice sent today, addressed to Jami’s office in Karachi, refers to Jami’s tweets from October 20, noting “the alleged rapist was never specifically named, even though hints and innuendos were dropped from time to time that could conceivably be taken as suggesting that the alleged rapist was our client [Haroon]”.
Referring to the series of attacks on the Dawn Media Group in December, when a mob besieged Dawn Media’s offices in Islamabad and Karachi, the notice highlights that “some members of this mob had pictures/posters of our client which made specific reference to the false rape allegations being made by you”.
“That almost two months after circulating your first tweet on being allegedly raped, and strangely and abruptly travelling outside Pakistan, on December 28, 2019 on the social media platform Twitter, you falsely and maliciously labelled our client as an alleged rapist.
“Since then, you have been continuing to circulate this false allegation all over Pakistan, including Karachi and abroad. Our client categorically denies that he has ever perpetrated sexual assault on anyone and categorically denies that he has raped you,” says the notice.
“This false and malicious allegation has been levelled at the instigation of powerful interests in the state and society who, for their own motives and the promotion of their own repressive narrative, wish to destroy our client’s credibility, especially his credibility as a leading advocate of the freedom of the press.”
The notice terms the allegation “a false statement […] to injure the reputation” of Haroon and says it aims to subject Haroon to “ridicule, unjust criticism, dislike, contempt and hatred and to target the freedom of the press”.
The notice says that unless Jami circulates an unconditional public apology and issues a public statement retracting his allegation of rape from all social media posts and other media outlets within 14 days of the receipt of this notice, Haroon reserves the right to initiate civil and criminal legal proceedings against the director under Section 499 of the Pakistan Penal Code, 1860, and the Defamation Ordinance, 2002, and other applicable laws.