ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) on Friday suspended Geo TV’s licence for 15 days and imposed a Rs10 million fine on a complaint filed by the defence ministry, Express News reported.
The fine has to be paid before the expiry of the suspension period.
The order was issued by newly-appointed interim chairperson Pervaiz Rathore. It was also decided that in case of repeated violation by Geo TV, proceedings for the revocation of the license shall be initiated.
All field offices of Pemra have been directed to implement the decision with immediate effect.
Earlier on May 20, Pemra’s private members had announced their decision to suspend the licences of Geo News, Geo Entertainment and Geo Tez till May 28. Hours after the announcement, however, the decision was disowned by the Pemra spokesperson.
Pemra’s private member Israr Abbasi, while speaking to Express News today, said the new decision was taken by the government members alone and not the entire regulatory body.
He also claimed that Pemra rules don’t permit appointment of caretaker head.
Geo sues ISI for defamation
Geo News, part of the privately owned Jang Group, is suing the powerful spy agency for defamation over accusations of being anti-state, it said on Friday, in an unprecedented move.
It has also given the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) 14 days to issue a public apology.
“Geo and Jang Group (have) served a legal notice on the Ministry of Defence, Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority for defaming and maligning the group,” the channel said in a report published in a newspaper owned by the media house.
“More than 8,000 journalists, workers and professionals attached to the group and their families are not only being harassed but also attacked and tortured across Pakistan.”
In April, the defence ministry had demanded that the licence of Geo News be suspended after it reported that the ISI was behind the shooting of one of senior journalist Hamid Mir.
Since the dispute began, Geo News has been taken off the air in several parts of the country or been moved to obscure slots on the channel lineup by the cable operators, allegedly under pressure from the military, according to the lawsuit.
Distribution of the parent group’s newspapers has also been disrupted.
Last month, the channel apologised for the allegations in an attempt to resolve an issue that has added to tensions between the civilian government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and the all-powerful military. But temperatures have failed to cool and in a lawsuit, the channel has now asked the powerful spy agency to retract its defamatory statements, publicly apologise and pay $500 million in damages. A spokesman for the military was not immediately available for comment.
April’s shooting of Mir sent a chill through the journalism community weeks after television anchor Raza Rumi was attacked in the city of Lahore. Rumi survived but his driver was shot dead. Although Pakistani media have become increasingly vibrant in recent years, with stories exposing corruption or injustices appearing frequently on the pages of the country’s many dailies, public criticism of the army or the ISI is largely taboo.
No one has claimed responsibility for the recent assaults, although the Taliban have made repeated threats against domestic and foreign reporters for portraying the insurgency in a negative light.
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