The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) strongly condemn the decision of the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PERMA) to suspend the licence of ARY TV and impose a fine of Rs. 10 million (approximately USD 100,000).
ARY TV is second channel to be suspended in recent months – Geo TV was suspended for 15 days on May 21.
According to reports PEMRA took the decision unanimously on June 20 claiming that ARY TV had aired “anti-judiciary programs”. PEMRA also banned the programme “Khara Sach” (Bitter Truth) aired on ARY News and its anchorperson Mubasher Lucman, for “persistently airing contemptuous and malicious campaign against the judiciary”.
The government’s crackdown comes as senior journalists and PFUJ officials have been subjected to threating calls from senior state officials and Federal Minister for information Pervaiz Rasheed. The PFUJ has been staging protests to condemn the shutdown of the TV channels and to show the solidarity with journalists. However, journalists participating in a peaceful protest outside PEMRA’s Islamabad office were subjected to harsh treatment by police.
Press freedom in Pakistan has also suffered since senior journalist and popular Geo TV anchor Hamid Mir was shot at in Karachi on April 19. The situation remains tense with Mir and Geo TV accusing the Pakistan military’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency of orchestrating the attack.
Responding to the latest PEMRA action, the PFUJ said: “The decision of PEMRA is taken without any judicial proceeding, thus it’s undemocratic and we demand written assurance from the Prime Minister that no media house will be subjected to such closure in future. We will not compromise on the freedom of media.”
The IFJ believes the decision to suspend the licence of any channel is an assault on press freedom and a violation of media rights. “Media outlets should be able to scrutinize and be critical of any state organizations based on the evidence at hand. It is the state’s responsibility to ensure that media rights are protected and that the media are allowed to perform their duties and responsibilities without threats, intimidation, harassment or violence.”