Pakistan suspends Geo News TV for 15 days

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) joins the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) in strongly condemning the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority’s (PERMA) decision to suspend the Geo News for 15 days and impose a Rs 10 million (approximately USD 100,000)fine. The IFJ has called the suspension a blatant attack on press freedom and called for the ban and the fine to be lifted immediately.

According to reports, PERMA sent a formal letter to Geo News on Friday, June 6 to shut down its transmission and pay the fine. The TV shut its transmission but officials have said the company will consider legal actions against the decision.

The PERMA decision was the latest in a series of events following the shooting of senior journalist and popular anchor on Geo TV, Hamid Mir, on April 19. Following the attack, Mir and Geo News accused Pakistan army’s spy agency, the inter-service intelligence (ISI), for orchestrating the attack – claims which subsequently raised the ire of of the Ministry of Defense which urged the government to recommend the cancellation of Geo TV’s news licenses.

The IFJ said the suspension has been imposed despite the Geo TV Network offering an apology on the ISI allegations.

The PFUJ, other journalists unions and press clubs across Pakistan have condemned the PERMA decision terming it illegal and a gross violation of the freedom of the press. The PFUJ officials and others have visited Geo offices to express solidarity.

The PFUJ said: “We strongly condemned the illegal decision of closing the Geo News by cable operators. They also demanded of the concerned quarters that after completing the 15-day ban on Geo News, the same should not be extended in any plea and no hurdles be made for Geo in performing its professional and journalistic activities.”

The Geo TV issue has been further complicated by another matter, where religious extremists accused the network of broadcasting blasphemous material during a morning show.

All the channels of Geo TV Network were shut down for nearly three months in 2007 following orders from General Pervez Musharraf.

The IFJ expresses solidarity with the Geo News TV and has called on Pakistan’s media to show solidarity and unity against this unnecessary government intervention.

The IFJ said: “The closure of any media on any ground is unacceptable. It’s a violation of press freedom and such action shows that the Pakistan government is not committed to democratic values. Any action should be undertaken only after due process and examination of the facts of the case and not at the whim of a state authority as a result of public witchhunt driven by disgruntled oppositional forces.”

For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +61 2 9333 0950 

The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 131 countries

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