The Cable Operators Association of Pakistan (COAP) on Friday called upon the government and the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) to take action against Geo TV under Section 27 of the Pemra Ordinance, 2002, and revoke its lincence.
At a second press conference on Friday, COAP Chairman Khalid Arain said his association endorsed a fatwa (religious decree) of religious scholars against Geo TV and therefore, advised the government and Pemra to decide the fate of the channel according to their conscience and religious and moral duties. He was referring to Thursday’s fatwa issued by various religious scholars in which watching Geo TV was declared haraam (forbidden).
At the news conference, Arian was flanked by other office-bearers of COAP. Arain said that during the last two years, Geo TV has aired news and shows that have created unrest among the public. By broadcasting the objectionable content on Geo’s morning show Utho Jago Pakistan, “Geo has violated 298A [use of derogatory remarks, etc, in respect of holy personages] of the Pakistan Penal Code”.
He urged Pemra and the government to take measures so that Geo TV does not broadcast news or programmes that hurt the emotions of the nation, injure religious sentiments or malign the armed forces. “We also appeal to the Pakistan Broadcasters Association (PBA) to take notice of Geo TV’s broadcast and reconsider its membership,” he added.
Arain also lashed out at Geo/Jang Group for “sabotaging COAP’s news conference earlier in the day at Karachi Press Club (KPC)”. The COAP had called the news conference at KPC in the afternoon, which was disrupted by journalists and cameramen belonging to Geo/Jang Group.
Several Geo/Jang Group employees, including senior journalists, vandalised the COAP’s news conference that the body had organised to announce their stance on the objectionable content aired on Geo TV’s morning show. The group’s employees interrupted the news conference, verbally abused COAP’s members, including Arain, and even damaged equipment.
“They tried to silence the cable operators,” Arain said angrily after the COAP officer-bearers reassembled late Friday night. “What the Geo/Jang Group employees did was sheer thuggery. There is no other example of such vilification in the country’s media history.”
Strangely, they cannot face dissent while they accuse others of the same, he maintained. “Geo talks of media freedom, but it is not the only media outlet in this country.”
Arain also criticised the KPC administration that “watched the spectacle instead of maintaining order”. “They should have asked the rioting journalists to leave, but why did they let them interrupt our news conference.” In the wake of the KPC rampage, COAP members began protesting. They will organise more protests in major cities today (Saturday).
Explaining the COAP’s stance, Arain said the cable operators are always blamed for questionable and objectionable content on the electronic media, which is why they organised the news conference to distance themselves from Geo TV’s actions and condemn them. The media house has always worked against the country and created unrest, he reiterated.
“Some religious organisations have threatened us after the intolerable and irreverent morning-show episode was broadcast. Cable operators are always the first to be threatened and harassed. We have had hand grenades hurled at our offices in the past.”
Arain said that when Pemra has issues with the COAP, they harass the cable operators and seize equipment from their offices to reprimand them. But when it comes to Geo TV, Pemra only issues them notices that last over weeks, claiming that the regulatory body as well as the government explicitly favoured the TV channel.
“YouTube is banned till today for broadcasting anti-Islam content. Then why is Geo still on air?”
The COAP has done its religious and moral duty by taking this stance, now it is up to Pemra and the government to take a decision according to the wishes of the people.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 17th, 2014.