News / Asia

Rights Groups Condemn Pakistan's Geo News Suspension

FILE - Employees of Pakistan's biggest television station Geo TV attend a protest against the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority after the station's license was suspended, in Karachi, May 22, 2014.
FILE - Employees of Pakistan's biggest television station Geo TV attend a protest against the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority after the station's license was suspended, in Karachi, May 22, 2014.
Ayaz Gul
Rights groups are condemning the move by Pakistan's media regulator to suspend Geo News, the country's largest news channel, due to a dispute involving the nation's powerful spy agency.

The Committee to Protect Journalists, Amnesty International and Reporters Without Borders all said the decision undermines press freedoms in Pakistan.

On Friday, the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) said it was immediately suspending Geo's license for 15 days and fining the company $100,000 for committing "violations."

The organization says all field officers have been instructed to ensure implementation of its orders.

PEMRA said if GEO repeats its "violations," it could face proceedings to revoke its broadcasting license.

The suspension orders were issued in response to a formal petition by the Pakistani defense ministry to cancel the channel’s broadcasting rights for what it alleged a “false and scandalous campaign against the ISI and its officers”.

GEO off air

GEO News channel’s transmission went off the air shortly after the official announcement.

The suspension is the latest challenge for GEO News following an assassination attempt in April against its news anchor, Hamid Mir, the most popular political talk show host in Pakistan.

Mir is said to have survived six gunshot wounds to the stomach and legs during the attack in the southern port city of Karachi.

Shortly after the attack, GEO News repeatedly aired accusations by Mir and his family members that the chief of the country’s military spy agency, ISI, planned the attack.

In a recent interview with VOA, the news anchor, Hamid Mir, defended GEO’s coverage of the attack on him.  
 
“I informed my management not once but more than once in advance that the elements of one intelligence agency are after my life. I gave them the names in writing and that is why they [GEO News] mentioned the names,” he said.
 
The broadcaster came under fire from media critics for overstepping journalistic norms and ethics, but they have strongly opposed attempts to shut down Geo News.

Local and foreign advocates of press freedom insist the Pakistani intelligence agency is free to rebut allegations against it but should not censor media coverage.

Abid Suleri, a social analyst and the executive director of Sustainable Development Policy Institute, says “one can say that perhaps any channel while reporting may not be observing some standard operating procedures and might have overstepped their limit, or they might have not followed the journalistic professional ethics."
 
"But it does not mean that we start shutting down the channels," he added. "So, perhaps we should resist any attempt to shut down any major or minor channel."

A senior official with the Committee to Protect Journalists, Bob Dietz, told VOA's Deewa Radio the suspension seems to be an overreaction by the government.

He said the government is taking out a "vendetta" against the broadcaster for the way it handled the Mir shooting.

“This seems to me to be really punitive and an overreaction on the government’s part," he said. "What we’ve seen is that there’s been a real vendetta taken out against the GEO for the way it handled the attack on Hamid Mir and this is the official extension of all those other activities that we’ve seen in Pakistan over the last month or two.  It’s not a good indicator of who’s controlling the media in Pakistan.”

The military denies allegations that the ISI had anything to do with the assassination attempt on Mir. There have been accusations against the spy agency that it was behind some of the attacks on journalists in Pakistan.  

Meanwhile, in an unprecedented move, the private Pakistani broadcaster says it is suing the intelligence agency together with two other state-affiliated institutions for “maligning” GEO and accusing it of have an “anti-Pakistan” agenda.

In its legal notice sent to the ISI, the broadcaster said the three government agencies made "baseless allegations" that have resulted in the broadcasters' staff members being "attacked and tortured across Pakistan."

Geo has demanded a public apology within two weeks and $500 million in damages. It alleges that thousands of its workers “are not only being harassed but also attacked and tortured across Pakistan.”

Some information for this report comes from AP, and AFP.

You May Like

Ukraine Purges Interior Ministry Leadership With Pro-Russian Ties

Interior Minister Avakov says 91 people 'in positions of leadership' have been fired, including 8 generals found to have links to past pro-Moscow governments More

US Airlines Point to Additional Problems of any Ebola Travel Ban

Airline officials note that even under travel ban, they may not be able to determine where passenger set out from, as there are no direct flights from Liberia, Guinea or Sierra Leone More

Nigerian President to Seek Another Term

Goodluck Jonathan has faced intense criticism for failing to stop Boko Haram militants More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid