Geo TV targeted again in dictator-style -Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Paksitan Press Foundtion

Geo TV targeted again in dictator-style

ISLAMABAD: Geo News and some other TV channels were once again blocked by the PPP government on Saturday afternoon, an action replay of the Musharraf-era.

The action was taken allegedly for “objectionable” coverage of the GHQ terrorist attack, but the Pakistan Army officially announced that it had no objection to the coverage and asked the government to reopen the channels.

Geo TV, however, remained shut in the afternoon while three other channels, which were also closed, were reopened shortly.

The government often shuts other channels also as a tactic to show that its action is not discriminatory and specific to one. This tactic was also used during the Musharraf onslaught against the Geo.

The action which was primarily meant to target the Geo TV, came after a senior official categorically warned the channel on Friday evening, one day before this incident, saying: “You can face damage if you do not change your policy” (Agar Aap Apni policy Tabdil Nahin Karte To Aapko Nuqsaan Pohnch Sakta Hay).

The closure of Geo TV started in the afternoon under the pretext that the TV channel was showing clips of the GHQ attack repeatedly.

Geo TV strongly denied the charge saying it is the norm throughout the world to repeat transmission as all the viewers do not watch TVs at one time. The state-run television, PTV, is also following this practice. Geo TV further said that its coverage was according to the rules and regulations of the Pemra and if there was any objection, proper legal action should be taken instead of arbitrary closure of the TV channels.

The closure of Geo TV, and for some time other channels, began with the same tactics used by the Musharraf regime by forcing the cable operators who were quietly but sternly told to downgrade Geo TV on the cable list throwing the channel to numbers 80 to 90. Some cable operators were told to deliberately disturb the audio-video signals of Geo TV so that legally it could be claimed that the channel had not been closed but the signals were weak.

The Pakistan Army and the security agencies took a firm stand against the government closure of the channels and DG ISPR Major General Athar Abbas told Geo TV and BBC that the Pakistan Army had no objection to the coverage shown by the TV channel and the channels should be immediately reopened.

General Abbas told Geo TV that he had told Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira that Pakistan Army and ISI had no complaints against the Geo and the closure orders of the government should be withdrawn.

General Abbas also told The News that he had told the information minister that the closure of Geo was earning a bad name to the army as it was being perceived that the army was behind this action by the government.

It may be recalled that the PPP government had been expressing serious anger and concern over the independent and objective coverage of news and events by the Jang Group of Publications for sometime and several high-level meetings had been held to “apply brakes” to the Geo TV and Jang Group.

These meetings chalked out strategies to control the Jang Group but action was delayed because of various reasons.

Recently when the Kerry-Lugar Bill issue was raised and exploded in the face of the PPP government, action to control the Jang Group was again considered seriously.

When Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira forced Pemra and Ministry of Information officials to take action against the Geo TV, there was a lot of resistance by some officials because there existed no legal or other justification to shut down the channel but then the orders and pressure was so intense that Pemra used its authority to take the channels off the air.

It was also learnt that the cable operators were told several tricks to shut down or downgrade the Geo TV so that if tomorrow the issue is taken to courts, they could defend their action by saying that it was not a closure but some technical fault.

Senior officials of Geo told Pemra and Ministry of Information officials that the Geo TV was showing what was legally permitted under the Pemra laws and other laws of the land. They were told that Geo transmissions earned business and they should not inflict financial loss on the channel.

They were told that if the Geo TV was found to be violating any Pemra rules, it should be taken to court and action taken under the due process of law instead of arbitrary closure, which resembled the tactics used by the dictators.

Under a democratic government such actions were not compatible, the Pemra and Ministry officials were told. The Geo officials also told the Pemra and the Ministry officials that they were extended a threat by the government a day before and now they have found an opportunity to take action against the channel. They said they intend to move the court immediately against the closure of the channel.

The Ministry officials were also told that when you people are in the opposition you always stand behind the press and strongly condemn such arbitrary measures by the government of the day against the media. “Please have mercy on Pakistan, follow rules set by Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah and give the people their right to information,” the Geo senior officials told Pemra and Ministry of Information officials. The Geo transmissions were restored after a few hours.
Source: The News
Date:10/11/2009