Government moves to cancel license of country’s largest television network

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In the aftermath of allegations and counter allegations following the April 19 attempted murder of popular anchor Hamid Mir, Pakistan government sought to ban the country’s largest television channel on the complaint initiated by the country’s Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) agency.

On April 22, 2014 the federal Ministry of Defence filed a reference with Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) for tarnishing the image of ISI. PEMRA, which has the authority to suspend or cancel the broadcast licenses, issued a show cause notice asking the Geo administration to submit its reply within 14 days. Pemra also directed chief executive of Geo News to appear in person on May 6.

Geo has challenged the notice by Pemra in the Sindh High Court, which has issued notices to the federal government and has fixed May 2 for hearing.

Tensions rose between ISI and Geo after the channel broadcast allegations by Mir’s brother that the journalist had told his family, employers, government and army officials that some officials of ISI including its Director General, Lt. Gen Zaheerul Islam had prepared a plan to eliminate him.

Geo reported that cable operators have blocked Geo’s transmissions in military cantonment areas and newspaper vendors in these areas have been directed not distribute newspaper of the group. Geo has also alleged that these ‘illegal’ actions have been taken on orders of ‘some forces’.

The Council of Pakistan Newspapers Editors (CPNE) in an emergency meeting unanimously declared that closure of any media house or cancellation of licence of any channel or publication will not be acceptable. CPNE said such action will lead to a grave crisis and will do irreparable harm to the democratic Pakistan. The meeting also declared that the right to freedom of speech is enshrined in the Constitution of Pakistan and the state should provide adequate protection to journalists against threats from any quarter.

The meeting strongly condemned the attack on Mir and demanded that the government to take immediate and swift action to ensure the safety of all the media persons.

Pakistan Press Foundation

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