Friday, March 13, 2020
ISLAMABAD: Immediately after Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan's press conference on the arrest of Editor-in-Chief of the Jang Geo Media Group Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman ended, cable operators started receiving directions to shut down Geo TV's broadcast or shift the channel to the last numbers.
The channel was shifted to last numbers in various cities and its broadcast was also disrupted after Dr Firdous' presser. Geo News Director News Rana Jawad said that the directives to cable operators came from the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA).
"Cable operators are being asked to change Geo's position [on TV channel numbers]. Shifting the channel to the last numbers means shutting down its broadcast," he said.
Jawad said these instructions were also given to the main cable operator in Islamabad and that no legal basis was provided for the action. He said that PEMRA was threatening to take legal actions against cable operators who did not comply with the instructions.
He said that Geo tried to contact PEMRA chairman for a clarification on the matter but he could not be reached. Jawad said that a cable operator in Islamabad had shifted Geo from number 7 to 71 and that cable operators in other cities were following suit.
"This is being done at a time when the Editor-in-Chief of the Jang Group/Geo has been arrested by NAB," he said. "This [censorship] is a manifestation of the conspiracy to shut down, silence and end media," he added.
He said that MSR's arrest and the subsequent censorship of Geo shows that the two events were linked to each other so that the largest media group in the country could be silenced and its voice should not reach the masses.
PEMRA Chairman Muhammad Saleem said he did not issue any directives to shut down Geo's broadcast or shift the channel to the last numbers in various cities across the country.
A lot of cable operators refused to obey directives from the media regulatory authority to shut down Geo's broadcast or shift it to the last numbers, saying that it was an illegal move and they will not cave under pressure.
The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) on Thursday arrested the Editor-in-Chief of the Jang and Geo Media Group in connection with property allegedly bought illegally from a government entity more than 34 years ago.
The property was in fact bought from a private party 34 years ago and all evidence of this was given to NAB and legal requirements fulfilled, such as payment of duty and taxes.
According to the Group's spokesperson, MSR's appearance before NAB was in a relation to a call-up notice for the verification of the complaint, yet he was arrested.
An accountability court on Friday gave a 12-day physical remand of MSR after he was presented in court.