Pakistan suspends ARY News TV licence
The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) joins the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) in strongly critcising the decision by the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PERMA) to suspend the broadcasting license of ARY News TV channel on October 20, 2014.
The PERMA said the 15-day suspension of license was effective immediately and also imposed a fine of Rs.10 million (approximately USD 97,000).
The decision by PERMA came after the Lahore High Court’s directive on October 17 to stop broadcasting the talk show Khara Sach hosted by anchor Mubashar Lucman. The program is suspended until the final verdict is handed down, on the indictment against ARY Chief and the broadcaster on the accusation of airing ‘scandalous and defamatory programs against the judiciary’.
The Court had ordered “the PERMA chairman to ensure that program Khara Sach is not aired on ARY News TV channel until final adjudication… he is further directed to ensure that [anchor] Lucman does not participate in any program on ARY TV Channel being aired in Pakistan either as a host or as an observer or as a participant.”
The Court also directed the Deputy Attorney General to ensure immediate initiation of process for placing Lucman’s name in the Exit Control List so barring him from leaving Pakistan.
The PFUJ said: “We join political and civil organizations in condemning the PEMRA. Lucman and ARY News should be given fair chance to defend themselves against the charges. The Pakistan government has been taking anti-democratic steps to snub media rights.”
The PFUJ said it was watching the proceedings very carefully and monitoring minutely steps taken by the government agencies. It is urging the government to revoke PEMRA’s decision and let Lucman and other journalists continue to “do their programs on their own free will”.
The PFUJ is holding rallies and sit-ins throughout the country to protest and fight for the freedom of expression and democratic norms.
IFJ Asia Pacific acting director, Jane Worthington, said: “Any legal action on media and journalists should follow proper legal procedure and it should not be based on biases against any media for their stance. The pre-emptive action to suspend a program and its anchor before reaching a final verdict is against all principles of democracy and freedom of expression. Compounding this injustice is the delivery of an outrageously excessive fine that defies all comprehension.”
“The decision by the PERMA is contrary to directives of the court and we urge it to immediately revoke the decision of suspension.”
The IFJ also urges that the Court to remain fair and not to pass on judgements deterring the freedom of expression that could have lasting impact on media.