Cable operators blocking Geo channels to lose licences, says Pervaiz
By: Mumtaz Alvi & Noor Aftab
ISLAMABAD: The Minister for Information and Broadcasting, Senator Pervaiz Rashid, on Thursday directed the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) to ensure smooth transmission of Geo and another private TV channel on the cable network.
The minister asserted that the government would not allow anyone to take the law into his own hands. He said the government believed in the freedom of expression and would facilitate the media, so that it could perform its duties in accordance with the professional ethos.
Pervaiz Rashid said this while talking to the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) President Afzal Butt, who called on him. Pemra’s acting Chairman Pervaiz Rathore was also present on the occasion.
The minister asked Afzal Butt to end their ongoing protests in various parts of Pakistan, keeping in view the sanctity of the holy month of Butt to end their ongoing protests in various parts of Pakistan, keeping in view sanctity of the Holy Month of Ramazan and the military operation in North Waziristan against the terrorists.
Braving inhospitable weather during the month of fasting, media persons, including female journalists have been staging demonstrations and sit-ins in Islamabad, Lahore, Peshawar, Karachi and other cities against the cable operators’ machinations in total disregard to the Supreme Court orders.
“It is time to show solidarity with the armed forces of Pakistan, as they are fighting to secure our tomorrow,” the minister emphasised.Pemra authorities held out an assurance to the minister that action would be taken against those, who were involved in unlawful blockage of transmission and uneven numbering of TV channels.
Pervaiz Rathore also assured the minister that their (cable operators) licences would be cancelled if they continued their activities against the law of the land.Rashid was also told that new licences would be issued in case of non-compliance of Pemra rules by the cable operators and bidding for DHT service would be started soon so that people could watch channels of their own choice without any interference or hurdle.
Earlier, Afzal Butt discussed different issues, relating to the media workers with the minister with particular reference to the partial restoration of Geo and ARY in different parts of Pakistan. He also apprised the minister of unrest among the journalist community with regard to illegal and unethical activities of cable operators.
PFUJ chief said that the cable operators kept on switching the order of the various TV channels on the cable network without authorisation and hence depriving the audience of watching the channel of their choice as well as causing loss to the media entities.
Earlier, the journalists’ associations showed satisfaction with the commitment by the government to ensure restoration of Geo News and all channels of Geo family on cable without any further delay but at the same time warned if it failed to implement its order, their movement would shake up the corridors of power.
According to Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ), Minister for Information and Broadcasting Pervaiz Rashid assured that the orders to restore Geo News and all other channels on their original numbers on cable would be implemented in letter and spirit. At the assurance of Pervaiz Rashid, the journalists’ associations ended their protests and sits-in all over the country.
“We hope the government would implement its orders and ensure restoration of Geo News and all other channels on cable but at the same time we want to make it clear that if it fails to implement its own order, we would again launch protest campaign in the country,” PFUJ announced on Thursday.
Meanwhile, a large number of journalists gathered at the protest camps set up in front of the press clubs across the country and chanted slogans against stony insensitivity of the federal government that seemed “helpless” against unlawful acts of Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) and cable operators. The banners were placed at the protest camps reading “Eliminate No-Go Areas”, “Say No To Curbs on Media”, “Media: Under Threat” and “Unity is Our Strength”.
The protest camps have been set up in front of press clubs in various cities including Islamabad, Lahore, Karachi, Peshawar, Quetta, Sukkur, Hyderabad, Faisalabad, Gujranwala, Larkana, Abbottabad, Muzaffarabad, Rahimyar Khan, Bahawalpur and Multan.
PFUJ President Afzal Butt while addressing the journalists in front of National Press Club (NPC) said it was appreciable that some government functionaries had approached them and held talks over the issue of freedom of press but they wanted to make it clear if this step was just to buy more time, it would ultimately result in more vigorous protest movement that would shake up the corridors of power.
The groups of journalists from two cities of Azad Jammu and Kashmir including Mirpur and Bhimber also visited the protest camp and showed complete solidarity with the protesting journalists.
“We are always ready to talk to the government representatives but we would not allow them to use it as a delaying tactic. If the government shows its insincerity, we are quite clear in our strategy that only focuses on vigorous protest movement to protect the rights of the journalists and uphold freedom of press,” he said.
NPC President Shehrayar Khan said the journalists made strong resistance in Martial Law regimes of Ayub Khan, Ziaul Haq and Pervez Musharraf and every time they refused to make any compromise on freedom of press so they would follow in their footsteps and not hesitate to render sacrifices for this purpose.
“When we were carrying out protests against former military dictator Pervez Musharraf, the government officials came and warned if we continued our protests, the government would register treason cases against us. We never stepped back that time and we would again do so because we have to protect our independence and freedom of press at any cost,” he said.
Rawalpindi-Islamabad Union of Journalists (RIUJ) President Ali Raza Alvi said they were surprised at the attitude of the government that was yet to take any solid step to ensure that Geo News and other channels were restored to their original number on cable in line with the directives of the courts.
“If the government wants to test our resolve, it would come to know that the journalists can never push back the cause of freedom of press in any situation,” he said.RIUJ Secretary General Bilal Dar said it was highly unfortunate that a democratically elected government was not paying heed to demands of the journalists who were not raising voice for their personal benefits but for upholding freedom of press that always helped strengthen democratic process in the country.
“The journalists have also rendered sacrifices for democracy and rulers must remember that it was the same media that joined hands with the pro-democracy forces against former military dictator Pervez Musharraf. The government should immediately exercise its authority and prove that Pemra and the cable operators would not be allowed to do unlawful acts,” he said.
President of Balochistan Union of Journalists Irfan Saeed while addressing the protest camp in front of Quetta Press Club said the PFUJ had not only carried out struggle by taking to streets but also faced lashes and imprisonments by confronting the dictators for the restoration of democracy.
Multan Press Club President Rauf Maan said the government should immediately take steps and ensure restoration of Geo News and all other channels on cable because it was not right to victimise any media group on the basis of unintentional editorial mistake.
Our correspondent adds from Lahore: The journalist community continued their protest demonstration over the illegal suspension of Geo News in different parts of the city by cable operators and against those who were creating hurdles in distribution of Jang, The News and Daily Awaz, etc.
The participants, carrying placards inscribed with slogans in favour of media freedom, in a large number gathered outside the Lahore Press Club Thursday and demanded the cable operators to completely restore transmission of Geo News and other Geo TV channels across the country without any delay.
At the protest camp, set up by Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists led by Afzal Butt and Council of Pakistan Press Clubs led by LPC President Arshad Ansari, the participants further added that Geo was being punished only for supporting the poor and the needy. They made it clear that no compromise would be made on the freedom of media and freedom of expression.