Demonstrators call for end to attacks on Jang, Geo
LONDON: British Pakistanis have called on Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to immediately end the suspension of Geo’s licence and let the channel operate independently and without any illegal interference.
At a demonstration outside Pakistan High Commission here organised by Overseas Pakistani Press Freedom Committee, more than 200 people from all over Britain expressed their rage at ban on Pakistan’s most popular news channel by the regulatory authority Pemra without giving Geo the right to respond in reference to the wild allegations made against the channel by the Ministry of Defence over the coverage of 19th April attack on Hamid Mir in Karachi. The protest was led by religious scholars, journalists and civil society activists who were carrying banners in support of Geo and against the relentless attacks on Geo and Jang Group.
The protesters said Pemra had punished the Geo News unheard and had acted as judge, judiciary and executioner. They said that the Pemra decision was unlawful, against all norms of justice and was an attack on freedom of press and independent media. They said that the excessive and radical decision form an acting chairman-led Pemra showed that the government of Nawaz Sharif had no intention to defend free media. They said that the suspension of Geo’s licence was a conspiracy against media and this decision had effectively reversed the democratic gains made in the last decade.
The protesters were carrying pictures of Hamid Mir and questioned that why attackers of Mr Mir had not been found almost two months after attack on him in Karachi.
They said that Jang Group has been targeted according to a well-managed plot by the forces opposed to democracy and rule of law in Pakistan. They said that Pakistani people are educated and conscientious enough to know that how media houses have been used to attack Jang and Geo through white propaganda.
They said that Pemra failed to act when the highest judiciary of the country was attacked and when defamatory programmes were run against Jang and Geo Group but failed to implement even the basic Supreme Court orders about the illegal shutdown of Geo family channels by the cable Operators.
Ulema said it was astonishing that TV channels used a controversial Qawali to incite religious hatred against Geo but their bias was on display when they repeatedly showed the same Qwali in order for causing harm to Geo. They said that Geo had apologised for airing the Qawali and for naming the ISI chief in its 19th April broadcast and that’s where the matter should have ended. They said after Geo issued the apology, everyone should have learned lessons and moved on but that didn’t happen and it looks like as if attempts are afoot to muzzle the free press forever.
They said that throughout the period of crisis, the government has appeared to be weak and lacking will to act against those who defied the orders of the SC, broke Pemra’s laws by blocking Geo family channels to financially cripple the network. The speakers said that what has happened to Geo amounted to street justice and not the justice as happens in democratic societies.
Pakistani journalists said that around 50,000 families were attached with Jang and Geo Group but no care was given by the state to this fact when attacks on Geo and Jang were launched. They said that rival channels had unfortunately used the name of Islam to defame Geo and Jang. They said that Geo made editorial mistakes in the aftermath of the attack on Hamid Mir and the broadcast of the Qawali but issued apology in both cases and resolved to be careful in the future and that’s where the matter should have ended but the rival channels, seeing an opportunity to take down Geo, used extremist elements and the name of Islam to cause harm to Jang and Geo employees. Ulema said that Geo showed that it’s a professional organisation when it issued apology and begged for forgiveness.
The civil society activists said that Geo licence suspension was a direct attack on democracy in Pakistan and to those forces who have fought dictators in the lawyers movement. The activists said that some politicians had issued irresponsible and opportunistic statements putting the lives of Jang and Geo journalists at risk in Pakistan. They warned that if attacks against Geo and Jang would not be stopped then movement at international level would be launched.