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Pakistan 'Temporarily' Blocks Pro-Opposition News Channel

  • VOA News

FILE - A Pakistani viewer looks at a television screen flashing suspension notice of GEO News channel in Islamabad, Pakistan, June 6, 2014.

FILE - A Pakistani viewer looks at a television screen flashing suspension notice of GEO News channel in Islamabad, Pakistan, June 6, 2014.

For the second time this year, Pakistan has suspended a private television channel critical of the government.

The Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority, known as PEMRA, on Monday said it was immediately pulling ARY News off air for 15 days for "maligning" the court system on one of its shows.

The channel must also pay a $97,000 fine.

ARY has taken a pro-opposition stance in its coverage of protests calling for Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's resignation over alleged election fraud.

The station aligned itself with former cricketer Imran Khan and a Sufi cleric Tahirul Qadri, who together have challenged the current administration.

Human rights watchdog Amnesty International said the ban violates freedom of expression. The group called for ARY to be "immediately allowed back on air."

"There is simply no justification for the Pakistani authorities to silence sections of the media solely because of their political leanings,” said Mustafa Qadri, Pakistan researcher at Amnesty International.

Channel suspended

In June, PEMRA suspended the country's largest news channel, Geo News, over a dispute involving the nation's powerful spy agency.

It blocked the channel for 15 days and fined the company $100,000 after Geo announced a defamation lawsuit against PEMRA, Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and the Defense Ministry.

Geo said it had been "maligned" by the agencies' accusations that it had an "anti-Pakistan" agenda.

The rift between the two sides stemmed from the April shooting of a Geo anchor, Hamid Mir.

Geo aired reports accusing the ISI of being behind the shooting, which it called an assassination attempt.

Later, Geo said its broadcasts were being blocked by cable operators in almost 90 percent of Pakistan, even though it had apologized for accusing the ISI of plotting the attack.

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