MUMBAI: In April, this year, Pakistan’s popular television channel, Geo TV’s news anchor Hamid Mir was attacked. The channel believed and linked the country’s intelligence agency, Inter Services Intelligence (ISI), to the attack.
Since then, the channel has been entangled with a defamation row with ISI. However, things took an ugly turn when Pakistan's Electronic Media Regularity Authority (Pemra) suspended the licence of the TV station for 15 days.
In a statement, Pemra said that they had made the decision following a complaint against Geo TV filed by the Defence Ministry.
Pemra said it "took a strong notice of violations committed" by the channel and "unanimously decided" immediately to suspend its licence in addition to imposing a 10 million Pakistani rupees ($100,000) fine.
It added that if the fine was not paid before the end of the suspension period, the channel would remain off air.
As per various reports, even before Friday’s (6 June) suspension, Geo News and its sister channels were off air in much of Pakistan as cable operators had pulled them off, under pressure from the military.
However, Geo argues that it has already publicly apologised to the ISI for its coverage and hence the ban is unfair.
The move has been criticised not only by the media fraternity in the country but internally as well.
On its website, Geo TV has carried a report on what Amnesty International said on the matter. The statement read: “The Pakistani government’s suspension of Geo TV, the country’s largest private broadcaster, is a politically motivated attack on freedom of expression and the media.”
“The suspension of Geo TV is a serious attack on press freedom in Pakistan. It is the latest act in an organised campaign of harassment and intimidation targeting the network on account of its perceived bias against the military,” said Amnesty International’s Asia director Richard Bennett.
In a report released on 30 April, Amnesty International had documented how media professionals in the country live under constant threat of harassment, violence and killings from a range of state and non-state factors.