SC hears petition against Geo News closure today -Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Paksitan Press Foundtion

SC hears petition against Geo News closure today

ISLAMABAD: Hearing of the petition filed in the Supreme Court by citizens against the closure of Geo News will be held today (Monday) and Geo TV’s petition, filed on Saturday, against change of its channel positions is also expected to be taken up the same time.

Viewers from many cities have complained that cable operators have put their favourite channel Geo News on a number far behind, making the picture of the channel very unclear.

The petition will be heard by a three-member bench of headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry. Other judges of the bench are Justice Ghulam Rabbani and Justice Khalilur Rehman Ramday. The petition has been filed by citizens of Islamabad. Notice for Monday’s hearing have been issued to the Information and Broadcasting Ministry, Pemra and other concerned government departments.

The Supreme Court as well as the Lahore High Court and the Sindh High Court had passed explicit orders for opening Geo channels. However only a few days after these clear-cut orders were passed, some cable operators started reshuffling the numbers allotted to Geo channels and the practice is still going on. Geo made a complaint to the government in this regard but no action was taken by any department and the process is rather on the increase.

Viewers are suffering because of that.

On Saturday, the Geo TV network filed a constitutional petition in the Supreme Court praying for directing the respondents not to influence/threaten/pressurise licensed cable operators to change the channel position of Geo TV network from one to the other on daily basis.

Hasan Mustafa filed the petition on behalf of Geo TV network through Advocate Muhammad Akram Sheikh under Article 184(3) of the constitution, making the federation of Pakistan through secretary Ministry of Information, and Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) through its chairman as respondents.

The petitioner requested the court to direct the respondents to forthwith restore uninterrupted broadcasts of Geo News channels along with all other news channels and not to change position of the network and its other channels to disrupt their telecasts. It was further requested to the court to direct the respondents not to threaten and cause harassment to the employees/management and not to malign/defame the top management of TV channels/newspapers.

It was submitted that in order to interrupt the broadcasts of Geo News and other channels of Geo TV network, cable TV operators, because of harassment and pressure from respondents No 1 & 2 and other executive organs of the executive, changed the position of Geo TV channels to last numbers without any justification and without any prior information to the subscribers and viewers of Geo News. As the result a large number of subscribers and viewers of Geo TV network are restrained from viewing its telecasts. Some day the Geo TV channels are put on the initial numbers but their positions are shifted to middle numbers the next day or some times to last numbers.

This reshuffling of the channels of Geo TV network is increasing day by day. All this is done by the cable operators due to pressure and harassment caused by the executive authorities.

The court was requested to direct the respondents to set up a mechanism for uninterrupted broadcasts of channels of Geo TV network besides directing the respondents to provide security to the petitioner and the cable operators.
The petitioner further requested the court to direct the respondents to instruct the cable operators to place all channels of Geo TV network including Geo News on first positions of the respective genre.

The petitioner further requested the court to direct the respondents not to discriminate with the petitioner while awarding/granting government advertisements. Not only viewers are irritated with the relocation of Geo TV’s position, but it is also causing financial loss to the Geo management.

The media cannot be compared with other products because of its different nature. Like all democratic countries in the world, the Constitution of Pakistan too guarantees the fundamental right of freedom of expression and a free media. The change of Geo TV’s position on the channel list is a severe attack on the press freedom.

On the complaint of viewers the cable operators are offering different explanations for allotting the Geo channels far-off numbers. It is a common practice worldwide that popular channels are placed at better numbers. Everybody knows and it is a fact that Geo channels are the most popular channels. This fact can be got certified from some independent rating and survey company or also from advertising agencies.
Source: The News
Date:10/4/2010