The satellite broadcast of News24HD, a current affairs television channel in Pakistan, was suspended for allegedly airing a Pakistan Democratic Movement rally in Karachi on YouTube and other coverage of the country’s political opposition. Transmission from the network’s satellite channel ceased on October 19. It follows a pattern of media suspensions directed at cable television providers over several months.
The Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA), the constitutionally established federal institution responsible for regulating channel licenses for print, broadcast and electronic media, imposed the ban. PEMRA has jurisdiction to impose reasonable restrictions in the interests of national security, integrity or religion. However, journalist unions and politicians, including Pakistan People’s Party leader, Raza Rabbani, denounced the ban and accused Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government as an enemy of press freedom for increasing pressure on an already suffering media industry.
24NewsHD previously had its license suspended by PEMRA after a complaint alleging the broadcast of hate material during a special ‘Muharram 10 transmission’, covering the Day of Ashura in the Islamic Calendar. On July 2, the company had its license revoked for airing news and current affairs with a license that only permits the broadcast of entertainment. Similarly, broadcasting of political criticism in April and June 2019 respectively, resulted in authorities issuing notices to specific journalists and taking News24HD offline.
The PFUJ said: “The shutdown of transmission is tantamount to an embargo on freedom of speech and expression that cannot be tolerated. The media industry is already in turmoil, while the illogical decisions of the PEMRA are adding to the worries of the media men which may lead the media industry to further deterioration.”
The IFJ said: “The harassment directed at News24HD, culminating in this latest suspension shows a clear and direct pattern of intimidation by the authorities. In an already economically challenged media environment, such actions impact the livelihoods of hundreds of media workers. The IFJ condemns the restriction of press freedom and calls for the immediate recommencement of satellite and cable broadcasts."