Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) has given a 72-hour ultimatum to the federal government led by Shehbaz Sharif to restore ARY News transmission. Secretary-General of PFUJ, Rana Azeem, warned that if ARY News is not restored within 72 hours and the cases registered against journalists are not terminated then they will protest outside the Parliament House, ARY News reported.
He further said that this issue is not only about ARY News but also the freedom of the press. This warning came after the Interior Ministry cancelled the no-objection certificate (NOC) of ARY News and stated that the order has been taken on the basis of adverse reports from agencies.
The notification issued, dated August 11 to the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) reads: “The NOC issued in favour of M/S ARY Communications Private (Ltd). is cancelled with immediate effect and until further orders on the basis of adverse reports from agencies.” Earlier, on August 10, the Sindh High Court directed Pemra and cable operators to immediately restore the transmission of ARY News, which had been suspended on orders of the government.
In the 10-page order, the Sindh High Court suspended the show-cause notice issued to ARY News by PEMRA. The court also stopped the media regulatory authority from suspending the license of TV channels till the next hearing. The court also issued notice to PEMRA and the deputy attorney general and adjourned the hearing until August 17, ARY News reported.
Soon it was revealed that PEMRA had ordered the suspension over a statement given by a Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) leader Shehbaz Gill among other reasons, the ARY News distanced itself from Gill’s statement and issued a statement on the matter. Gill was arrested for “making statements against the state institutions and inciting the people to rebellion,” according to the police.
The ARY News clarified that comments or opinions of any individual televised by the network do not represent the channel’s policy. Shahbaz Gill’s statement was his personal opinion not ARY’s editorial policy. Earlier, the PEMRA issued a show-cause notice to ARY News for airing what it called “false, hateful and seditious content.” On Monday, the transmission of Pakistan’s ARY News was suspended in different parts of Pakistan.
The Human Rights Commission in Pakistan (HRCP) has strongly opposed the disruptions to ARY News and asked the country’s regulatory authorities not to take channels off the air arbitrarily.”HRCP strongly opposes the disruptions to @ARYNEWSOFFICIAL. PEMRA must refrain from arbitrarily taking channels off the air and protect all media houses’ right to freedom of expression, responsibly exercised,” HRCP tweeted. Pakistan is one of the world’s deadliest countries for journalists, with three to four murders each year that are often linked to cases of corruption or illegal trafficking and which go completely unpunished, according to Reporters Without Borders (RSF).
Any journalist who crosses the red lines dictated by the Pakistan military is liable to be the target of in-depth surveillance that could lead to abduction and detention for varying lengths of time in the state’s prisons or less official jails.