Pakistan's Geo TV suspended for 15 days
Row continues between channel, the army and TV watchdog
Geo TV has come under attack over a series of recent incidents.
The row between Pakistan's largest media group, the Jang Group of Publications, and the country's powerful military deepened on Friday after PEMRA, the national media regulator, suspended the license of Geo News for 15 days.
In a press statement PEMRA said that the authority considered the violations committed by Geo News and unanimously decided to immediately suspend its license and impose a fine of Rs10 million (US$101,300).
The suspension will continue indefinitely until the fine is paid, the statement added.
The decision comes a day after Geo TV served legal proceedings against the Ministry of Defence, Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and PEMRA, for what it described as “defaming and maligning the group by accusing it of working on an anti-Pakistan agenda, inciting and fueling violence against the group, pressuring cable operators to black out Geo channels.”
In its legal notice, the group has alleged that because of the “baseless allegations of being traitors and furthering an anti-Pakistan agenda”, more than 8,000 journalists, workers and professionals attached to the group, along with their families, are not only being harassed but also attacked and tortured across Pakistan.
“All must publicly apologize to the group and all its workers and their families for levelling absolutely baseless, wrong and shameful allegations without any proof and endangering the lives of thousands of professionals attached with the group,” it said.
The media group has also asked all the accused to publicly apologize within 14 days and pay US$500,000 in damages.
In its response to Friday’s suspension, Geo called the suspension “a one-sided decision,” and claimed it was not asked to provide any evidence, nor was its stance heard by PEMRA.
“PEMRA has already been punishing Geo News which has remained shut in 90 per cent of Pakistan for the last 45 days,” it said in a statement.
The row began in late April when one of Geo’s leading news anchors, Hamid Mir, narrowly escaped a gun attack in Karachi.
Mir’s family immediately accused the country’s powerful intelligence agency and its chief of orchestrating the attack, saying that he had been critical of the military for their alleged role in the kidnappings of separatists in the country's western province of Balochistan.
Geo News splashed the allegations repeatedly in its marathon transmission.
The broadcast angered the army, who filed a complaint with PEMRA, asking for Geo’s license to be revoked.
Friday’s statement from Geo News pointed said it had already apologized for the incident.
Geo also came under fire after religious groups accused the station of broadcasting blasphemous material.
Pakistan's independent Human Rights Commission (HRCP) slammed the “malicious campaign unleashed against Geo and the manner in which pressure is being exerted to close down the channel.
"The organization must point out that the environment of fear that has been created is making the lives of journalists working for Geo extremely vulnerable. They are being intimidated and a large number of them have faced attacks," an HRCP spokesman added.
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