Politicians, lawyers condemn Geo channel shutdown
KARACHI/LAHORE/PESHAWAR: Media watchdog Pemra’s decision to suspend the Geo TV licence for 15 days on Friday drew strong criticism from political leaders and lawyers.
PPP Sindh General Secretary Taj Haider on Friday said it was very unfortunate that private TV channels were being shut down. He said the government should have stepped in much earlier to save the situation but it played no conciliatory role.
He said it was again very unfortunate that an intense war was going on between the media houses. He said the working journalists must maintain complete unity in their movement and struggle and they should secure concrete promises and commitments from their respective owners that they would fight for their (owners’) cause but in return conditions of their services should be improved.
“In the past, we fought for our English colonial masters but only on the promise that afterwards we would be given freedom,” he said in support of his argument. Waqar Mehdi, Information Secretary of the Pakistan People’s Party, Sindh, said that due action against the Geo News television should be taken fully in accordance with the Constitution, the law of the land and the Pemra rules and there should be no violation of the law and the rules.
He said an independent, transparent, and proper inquiry should be conducted and the Geo News TV issue should be resolved as per the law. He said if the suspension of Geo News TV license for 15 days was in line with the rules and laws of Pemra, then there was no harm in it.
Syed Najmi Alam, General Secretary, PPP Karachi Division, said that suspension of the license and transmission of Geo News merely for 15 days was beyond his comprehension given the seriousness of the allegation pending against the Geo News. Given the allegation being probed against it, in case the Geo News had committed such a grave mistake, then the TV news channel should have been shut down forever. It seems to be a compromise between the parties and stakeholders concerned, said the local PPP leader.
The PML-F Media Coordinator, Kamran Tessori, said his party believes in press freedom and whenever and wherever the press voice was gagged, they will condemn it.Senator Saeed Ghani of the PPP opined that all the parties should have attended the Pemra meeting. He said during the Friday’s meeting, there were no private members and in the previous meeting there were private members. Ghani said though the Jang Group had always been against the PPP, they still say an injustice had been done.
The PML-Q and PML-N leaders and adviser to Sindh Chief Minister Sharmila Farooqi refused to offer any comments.MQM Rabita Committee member Engineer Nasir Jamal at first offered no comments; however, when insisted, he said: “Allah Taala Geo Kee Mushkil Asaan Karay.”
Despite repeated calls, Sindh Minister for Information Sharjeel Inaam Memon was not available for comments.KUJ President G M Jamali strongly condemned the decision of Pemra and said the authority should have heard both the sides. He said it was totally unjustified and unwarranted not to listen to Geo TV.
The KUJ and PFUJ strongly condemned the decision. The religious parties refused to make any comments over this issue.Legal experts and senior lawyers have condemned the one-sided Pemra’s decision of suspending the Geo News licence for 15 days and said it was a clear violation of the Article 10(A) of the Constitution.
Former judge of the Sindh High Court and renowned lawyer Rasheed A Razvi said the due process of law was not followed in the case, which was a clear violation of Article 10 (A) of the Constitution. He said the decision was politically-motivated.
Former assistant advocate general, Sindh, Syed Jalil Ahmed Hashmi, said it was an unlawful decision and could be challenged in the Sindh High Court under Article 199 of the Constitution. Hashmi said the decision was taken in haste and without providing an opportunity to Geo TV to defend it. He said the Pemra decision will definitely be set aside by the appellate court.
Renowned law expert and special public prosecutor Abdul Maroof said: “To me, the decision itself has committed many violations of law dealing with the right to know, right to speech and right to expression and it was a matter to be dealt with under Article 199 and Article 184 (3) as it not only involves the question of public interest, but also a matter of violation of fundamental rights guaranteed by the Constitution.”
Maroof said such decisions hold no water in the eye of law and were finally reversed and certainly this wrong decision would meet the same fate in the near future. Advocate Noor Naz Agha observed: “I am deadly against a decision that does not take into account necessary legal aspects of the matter and are drawn unheard of the stakeholders concerned.”
She said it was not an occasion of happiness and instead it was the tragedy of the day because such negative decisions could also affect other media houses. She said Pemra must honour the due course of law and due process of law while dealing with the matters of media and journalism, which were bound to do investigative reporting of the events.
According to the Pemra notification, the licence will remain suspended from June 06 till June 20. In Kasur, lawyers, journalists, traders, political workers and members of the civil society condemned the suspension of the Geo News.
In three emergency meetings held at kutchery and Lal Havely, the Unity Group of Lawyers, Insaf Group of Lawyers, HR activists and other organisations passed resolutions against the Pemra. Kasur BR VP Saleem Farrukh, Yaseen Farrukh advocate, Unity Group President Rana Naveed Ahmad Joya, Insaf Group President Saleemur Rahman, Sardar Sharif Sohdal advocate, Sh Ateeq Ahmad advocate, Naveed A Malik, Shazia Ajmal advocate, MM Tariq Advocate, Zohaib Baloch and others condemned Pemra and termed its decision a conspiracy against Geo, the media and democracy.
In Lahore, protesters rejected the Friday’s decision of Pemra saying the decision reflected the government’s intentions on the independence of the media and value of freedom of expression in the country.Carrying banners and placards inscribed with anti-Pemra, anti-Rathore and anti-government slogans, the protesters in hundreds gathered outside the Jang/Geo offices on the Davis Road and condemned the Pemra decision.
The Muttahidda Christian Rabita Committee on Friday denounced the suspension of Geo News licence by the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) and asked the authorities concerned to review the decision.
In a press statement, provincial president of the committee, Tanveer Sherazi, said the ban on Geo News was biased and an injustice. “About 10,000 employees of Geo, Jang Group would be affected by the decision,” he said.