By Rahman Bunairee
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and Reporters Sans Frontiers (RSF) regard PEMRA’s action as “punitive and an overreaction on the [Pakistani] governments part.”
Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA), has suspended GEO TV’s license for 15 days and fined them Rs 10 million for a complaint issued by the Defense Ministry. The complaint was issued to PEMRA by the Defense Ministry in regards to Amir Mir’s accusations, which claimed that the ISI and their Chief General Zahir ul Islam were behind the assassination attempt on his brother Hamid Mir; a renowned journalist and anchor for GEO TV. Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR), have denied these accusations.
Bob Dietz of the CPJ told VOA Deewa that “there is a real vendetta being taken out against GEO for the way it handled the attack on Hamid Mir. It is not a good indicator of who is controlling the media in Pakistan.”
This isn’t the first time that GEO TV has had their license revoked by PEMRA. On May 9, 2014-PEMRA announced that GEO’s license had been suspended but this controversial decision was overturned within hours.
Both International and regional reporters associations believe that PEMRA was under duress by the ISI. While Bob Dietz of CPJ believes, “It is easy to blame the ISI, but PEMRA has to take responsibility for its actions”, others like Iqbal Khattak of RSF believe GEO TV license was suspended due to “pressure from certain quarters”.
Over the past month, cable operators in Pakistan had stopped providing GEO TV broadcast to 90% of Pakistan. Many suspect that the country’s powerful spy agency is behind this halt. GEO issued a statement expressing that they felt as if the regulatory body of PEMRA has “been punishing the channel” in regards to the Hamid Mir case. They further added that the channel has apologized and suffered Rs 2 billion in losses.
Meanwhile regular viewers have been suffering alongside with GEO TV. Laila Khan told VOA Deewa, “My father usually watches GEO news on TV and I watch GEO’s dramas…but we can’t watch our shows anymore.”
Iqbal Khattak stated, “closing GEO TV for 15 days is the worst decision in regards to freedom of press.”
contribution by Niala Mohammad