A Pakistani journalist gestures during a protest against the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) in Islamabad yesterday. Pakistan suspended a television channel ARY News supportive of anti-government protests being held by cricketer-turned politician Imran Khan and a populist cleric in the capital Islamabad.
Pakistan has suspended the licence of a fiercely anti-government television news channel, the state media regulator said, in a move criticised strongly by Amnesty International as politically motivated and unjustified.
The Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) said it had suspended ARY News, a private channel, for 15 days for airing a talk show which it said “maligned” the court system.
“The authority also noted that the channel has chronic history of non-compliance of PEMRA Laws,” it said in a statement issued on Monday.
The channel’s leadership was not available for comment.
Amnesty said the suspension was politically motivated.
“ARY TV must 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, Amnesty’s Pakistan researcher.
The suspension comes at an uneasy time in Pakistan where the government has been under pressure following a long period of protests which some commentators say were backed by the all-powerful army keen to sideline Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
One of ARY’s leading journalists, Mubashir Luqman, has been particularly critical of Sharif’s administration, making regular accusations against the government and the judiciary on his popular show, Khara Sach.
In June, the media watchdog similarly suspended Geo TV, a major TV channel, for 15 days after the channel accused an intelligence official of orchestrating the attempted killing of one of its leading journalists. Geo has since been restored.
“Journalism is an incredibly dangerous profession in Pakistan,” Amnesty said. “Instead of trying to control what journalists say, the Pakistani authorities should do more to protect them so they can carry out their legitimate work.”
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