War on Geo
After a brief reappearance, Geo TV has vanished from screens across Punjab, despite the fact that Pemra, the courts and the government had ordered its restoration after the 15-day ban imposed on it had ended at the end of June. The reasons for this action are unclear – but cable operators say they have orders ‘from above’ not to air the popular news channel in the country. While viewers have reported making repeated calls of complaint, the action has had no impact with ‘technical issues’ being cited as the reason for the failure to air Geo-run channels including those that offer purely entertainment based shows and have no links with news broadcasts. The act then is clearly a vindictive one, aimed at destroying the channel and the media group it is linked to. What is happening seems to follow a well worked out pattern to bring the channel tumbling down. The ruthless action threatens jobs, livelihoods and the rights of people to access information. The inability of the government to do anything about the situation is especially alarming. It suggests that powerful forces lurking in the shadows determine many matters as to how things operate at all levels. This tells us a great deal about the reality of the country that has still to find the true democracy it so badly yearns for.
In this environment, the rabid attacks launched on Geo by Imran Khan during his sit-in in Islamabad simply add to the dangers the channel faces. Its journalists have already been under threat for over four months, following the attack on key journalist and TV anchor Hamid Mir and the events that followed. For all his claims of standing for press freedom and the rights of women, Imran has shown this is merely a cloak to disguise a different face. That face is one that thinks nothing of launching a smear campaign based on no truth at all and making a fascist attempt to bring down anybody that he sees as opposing him or questioning his standing as self proclaimed king of the land. Geo’s view on the falling number of people left at the PTI’s Islamabad march has quite clearly been taken very badly by PTI’s supporters. The views of the party chief have obviously contributed to attacks on Geo journalists with the latest being an attack on a Geo reporter as she attempted to report from the sit-in. The reporter was pelted with empty bottles and other items were hurled at her. The government needs to take action. It can do so by taking note of the resolution passed by the National Assembly to protect journalists covering the Islamabad sit-ins. The concern shown by the PkMAP, which moved the resolution, is one that should echo across our civil society so that more can be done to protect reporters, cameramen and media teams out in the field.