By Syed Jaffer Abbas Jafri + Agencies
KARACHI/ ISLAMABAD/ LAHORE: The Pakistan Electronic Media Authority Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) on Friday suspended with “immediate effect” allegedly “pro-Shia” television channel 24NewsHD’s licence for “illegal transmission of news and current affairs content”.
According to a press release issued by the regulatory authority, the channel Value TV — for which the license was issued to Central Media Network Pvt — had “illegally” changed its name to 24NewsHD. The channel was granted the licence to air entertainment content but instead it was “persistently illegally and unlawfully airing news and current affairs in continuous violation of PEMRA laws”, the statement read.
The regulatory body said it issued a show-cause notice to the channel for violating the terms of its licence and directed it to “revert back to its approved programming content” on May 7, 2020. But the channel “failed to adhere to the directions of the authority despite several notices and opportunities of hearing provided (to them),” according to the statement.
PEMRA, therefore, suspended the channel’s licence with “immediate effect till the time it reverts back to its original programming mix”.
Media facing ‘worst crisis’ during present government
In a statement, Karachi Press Club (KPC) President Mohammad Imtiaz Khan Faran, Secretary Arman Sabir and other office-holders and workers “strongly condemned” PEMRA’s decision to suspend the licence and demanded its restoration.
The statement said that the media industry was facing the “worst crisis” during the present government because of which journalists and media workers were facing financial difficulties.
“The closure of Channel 24 can lead to an increase in the [financial] crisis,” the statement said and called for “strong opposition” to the suspension.
“We are standing shoulder to shoulder with our media fraternity,” the statement said.
‘Imran Khan targeting those who speak truth’
PML-N spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb on Saturday criticized Prime Minister Imran Khan for the TV channel’s suspension, saying that he was targeting those “channels, media houses, journalists and owners who spoke the truth”.
In a tweet from the PML-N’s account, Aurangzeb condemned the suspension and demanded the channel’s “immediate resumption”.
She claimed that the government had a “problem with all those institutions and people who criticized it”.
“Heavy-handed tactics are at their peak during this government. Mir Shakeelur Rehman’s wrongful arrest, banning channel 24 and restricting the writings and program of various journalists prove that this government is not democratic,” she said.
Aurangzeb claimed that the government was “increasing unemployment amid the coronavirus after destroying the media industry”, adding that the suspension of the channel’s licence would add to the “tsunami of unemployment”.
PEMRA urged to remove ban on 24 News HD
The Association of Electronic Media Editors and News Directors (AEMEND) on Saturday expressed condemnation over the suspension of the transmission of channel 24 News HD under the orders of Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA).
According an AEMEND joint statement today, PEMRA has been strongly urged to take back the suspension orders.
The statement said that 24 News should be allowed to convert its license like other channels.
The group said the channel has been operational since past six years, with a big workforce and its suspension can exacerbate the crisis in the media industry.
The PEMRA chairman gave a unilateral decision to immediately suspend the channel, AEMEND said, continuing that the step can lead to unemployment of working journalists.
“The country is not only fighting the coronavirus pandemic but also the financial crisis,” said the group, adding that Prime Minister Imran Khan had also said that ending unemployment is among his priorities for the country.
According to the channel’s website, its license was cancelled as the PEMRA objected to the category of license.
24 News alleged that the authority did not even pay heed to its ‘principal stance’, calling the move illegal.