Cable operators defy deadline; PEMRA seeks help of provinces' police to restore Geo channels

PEMRA has writted to provincial chief secretaries stating that it has started implementing relevant laws against cable operators creating hurdles in transmission of Geo Network channels

Web Desk

ISLAMABAD: Having failed to get its order for restoration of Geo Network’s all channels in 24 hours implemented, the government’s official regulator for the electronic media has asked the provincial governments to direct their police to help it enforce its directive in different parts of the country.

The Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) had warned cable operators on Monday that their licenses would be terminated if Geo TV channels’ transmissions were not resumed. 

The authority also suspended Lahore and Karachi licences of two cable operators – World Call and Wateen Media – for the same offence. These operators played hide and seek with the authority by resuming the transmission for a while but suspending it again later.

PEMRA wrote to provincial chief secretaries that it had started implementing the relevant laws against all those cable operators who were creating hurdles in transmission of Geo Network channels. 

For the purpose, the letter reads, the authority needs cooperation from the respective governments, so that action could be taken against the persons involved in the illegal activity.

PEMRA requested the provincial governments to direct their police departments to cooperate with the authority and facilitate them. The help will be in national interest as it will help implement PEMRA's writ and enhance the confidence of licence-holder channels in the regulator, the letter added.

Along with the letter, PEMRA has also shared details of its zonal officials with the provincial authorities. Now PEMRA is all set to get its laws implemented with the help of provincial police departments.

On Monday, the PEMRA stated that it had not ordered suspension or change of position of any channel. "Suspension of any licensed TV channel is a violation of PEMRA rules, hence all the cable operators are informed to ensure transmission of channels licensed by the Pemra on cable TV networks," the statement read.

The regulatory body has also kicked off action against cable operators involved in violation of its rules, it added. It directed cable operators to restore all Geo TV channels on their actual positions within 24 hours.

"In this regard, today on April 2, 2018, Pemra, while issuing notice of licenses suspension of Wateen Multimedia Lahore, and WorldCall Cable Lahore and Karachi, has directed them to restore all Geo TV channels on their actual positions within 24 hours," the statement said further.

Moreover, the PEMrA warned that in case of non-compliance it would initiate the process of revoking the said licenses under Section 30 of the Pemra Ordinance.

Condemning Geo channels’ closure , State Minister for Information and Broadcasting Marriyum Aurangzeb HAD said they have decided to suspend licenses of cable operators involved in putting Geo TV channels off air. 

Moreover, PTI Chairman Imran Khan has stated that he is against the closure of any channel. He said he is with the journalists of Jang and Geo. Similarly, PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has also tweeted against the closure of Geo Network's channels. 

Since 2014, transmission of Geo News is being hampered from time to time. Its position on the cable network is changed when people get used to watching it on a particular number; it is closed on the cable network. PEMRA appears to be helpless, the government is playing the role of a silent spectator, while Geo News viewers are deprived of their right to watch its programmes.

It is obviously a constraint on freedom of expression, and that too not during any dictatorial rule but a democratic dispensation. The use of such tactics is very dangerous not only for a democratic government but also democracy. The government does admit that such tactics are really damaging for democracy while the elections are round the corner, but it is a pity that practically it is doing nothing to resolve the issue.

Originally published in The News