A black day despite public support by all, PM, politicians included
ISLAMABAD: Motivation and the motives behind suspension of Geo TV by Pemra apart, the stringent action against the most popular TV channel marks the blackest day for the constitutionally-guaranteed freedom of the press that was not offered on a silver platter.
Meanwhile, vultures, disguised as TV anchorpersons and journalists, prodded and promoted by their masters, visible and invisible, are happy over the Pemra decision as their demand has been met. But they do not realise that this is a huge attack on the press freedom as a result of which all will suffer. The temporary glee and gains of the opportunistic lot will evaporate very soon.
Unfortunately, in their ambitious venture to build their palaces at the cost of someone else, these fawning flunkeys deeply split the journalistic community without acknowledging that such a division will benefit only the perpetrators and weaken the pressmen and press freedom.
There is not an iota of doubt that the Nawaz Sharif government, though hesitantly, took the harsh action on being constantly pressurised by the complainant, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) through the defence ministry, which submitted a plea to the regulator, the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra), hurling unheard of, wild and unsubstantiated accusations on the Geo News. But in the annals of history, it will be the government and not the spy agency that will be in the dock for the suspension.
What is the value and worth of umpteen statements from top-most government leaders that no actions like suspension or closure of Geo News will be taken? For over a month, the president, the prime minister, the information minister and several other senior stalwarts said more than once that the freedom of expression and the press would be ensured at all costs and Geo would not be suspended or closed. It is now clear that all this talk was empty and shallow, signifying nothing.
The strike proved loud and clear that the regulator succumbed to the intense pressure exerted by the complainant. It also established as to where the power lies. However, the suspension is just an official formality because the Geo News had already been forcibly off-air in 90 percent of Pakistan for the past 45 days due to the intimidating illegal orders to the cable operators by the omnipotent complainant to disconnect it.
It is a debatable question as to how the callous action against the Geo News will or has retrieved the damaged reputation and prestige of the spy agency and its chief. It may be instructive to have a glance at the social media where this “waqar” (honour, prestige) has been vociferously but mockingly discussed.
It was reprehensible that the Geo News was condemned by the Pemra unheard. Had the regulator resorted to this action after giving a fair hearing to the outlet, its decision would have been viewed in a different manner. It was a one-sided, unilateral move which can’t stand the scrutiny of law, fairness and justice.
The suspension was clamped despite the fact that the Geo News had publicly apologised over the April 19 coverage in the wake of assassination attempt on noted anchorperson Hamid Mir. It was more than sufficient because the outlet confessed to its blunder.
In the civilised world, an unqualified apology is generally considered absolutely appropriate remedy because it is the admission of the mistake by the network while suspension is vindictiveness and revenge by all standards, which will not help salvage the “damaged repute and prestige”.
The government and the spy agency will face the music in the wake of Geo News suspension. Not only all the representative premier bodies and associations of journalists and press clubs of Pakistan are exceedingly exasperated over the action and plan protests against it, but the international forums and many countries would condemn this decision as well as the government for acting dictatorially and in a draconian fashion.
Nowhere in the world, a top spy agency publicly exposed itself so much as the outfit did in Pakistan over the past 45 days. Many unprecedented actions like managing protest rallies by certain religious elements, including banned outfits, burning of thousands copies of The News and Jang and the vehicles carrying them for four times in Rawalpindi, Karachi and Lahore, bullying cable operators into blocking the Geo News transmission and intimidating the journalists of the media house threw up a shameful record that will continue to haunt Pakistan for a long time.
In the larger context, the intelligence agency demonstrated its power to all and sundry in Pakistan and to the world at large that it was not a civilian government, regardless of its electoral mandate, that rules Pakistan, but it was this outfit that was in command and can do whatever it wants with impunity. It mocked the people’s mandate that they accorded in the May 2013 general elections. The civilian dispensation became a laughing stock during this period.
For weeks, the Nawaz Sharif government resisted the ISI pressure to instantly shut down the Geo News for the “unparalleled crime” it committed. A person no less than the chief executive declared more than once that it would not penalise the network to such an extent that its licence was suspended even for a few days. But finally, the mighty was able to coerce the government into accepting its diktat.