MPs want parliament to probe Geo closure issue

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ISLAMABAD: Minister for Information Senator Pervaiz Rashid on Monday, speaking on the floor of the House in the joint sitting of parliament, said that Geo News and PTV offices were attacked and their buildings and equipment damaged, which created hindrances in the performance of professional duties of media personnel.

He proposed to the NA Speaker to refer the issue to the Standing Committee of the National Assembly on Information so that it could draft a policy for the protection of journalists and the issue of closure of Geo News could be settled with the help of parliament.

He said the government would take all possible measures for the protection of journalists and those involved in the attacks would be brought to justice.Responding to the request of Information Minister Senator Pervaiz Rashid for referring the issue to the Standing Committee of the National Assembly on Information, Speaker National Assembly Sardar Ayaz Sadiq said he would consult the Senate chairman so as to refer it to the joint committee of the National Assembly and Senate on Information to review the issue comprehensively and settle it amicably.

Speaking in the House, Senator Farhatullah Babar also raised the issue of closure of Geo News, saying that despite paying the heavy penalty and suspension, it was unjust that Geo News was still not open.

He proposed that this issue be referred to the joint committee of both the houses of parliament to look into why the channel was still closed despite paying heavy penalties and tendering an apology.

Senator Babar Ghauri of the MQM also raised his voice in support of Geo News, saying Geo News was still facing suspension despite paying heavy penalties. “Geo News also tendered an apology but the channel is still facing closure,” he added.

He said Information Minister Pervaiz Rashid should also take notice of the Geo News closure and resolve it as soon as possible. “Owing to the Geo News closure, 5,000 workers will lose their jobs which are in fact 5,000 families that would face hardships, so we appeal to the government to settle this issue immediately,” he added.

Earlier, journalists staged a walkout from the Press Gallery during the joint sitting of both the Houses of Parliament to register their protest against the repeated attacks on the office of Geo News in Islamabad.

On the intervention of the Information Minister Senator Pervaiz Rashid, the reporters ended their protest and came back to their seats to cover the proceedings. On the occasion, Pervaiz Rashid said last night when the Geo News office was attacked, he was attending the programme of its senior anchor Salim Safi. He said the country was confronted with a new trend of hooliganism where anybody who disagreed with anything got attacked.

Rashid, however, said that it was not weakness of the government yet it might be termed ‘our negligence’. But, he added, it was beyond doubt that ‘we stand with the media’.He said the time has come to cancel the licences of some of the cable operators. He said Pemra ought to discharge its duty. Geo, he said, has implemented the law by paying the fine and facing the punishment.

The minister said action would be taken against all those involved in the attack on PTV and other channels. He said if someone took the law into his hands, action would be taken against him.

Pervaiz Rashid said cable operators were bound by an agreement to show channels of choice of the people. He said Pemra would cancel the licences of those cable operators who had violated the agreement.

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