Pakistan has suspended the licence of Geo News for 15 days for defaming the army and the powerful Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), a day after the leading television channel decided to sue authorities for maligning its image and demanded a public apology and Rs. 50 billion in damages.
The suspension of the licence of Geo News was announced by Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) after a meeting chaired by its chief Parvez Rathore. It also asked the channel to pay a Rs. 10 million fine.
“The Authority … took a strong notice of violations committed by Geo News and unanimously decided to immediately suspend the license of the said channel for a period of 15 days besides imposing a fine of Rs. 10 million, to be paid before the expiry of the suspension period,” PEMRA said in a statement.
“In case of non-payment of fine, the suspension of the license shall continue. The authority further decided that in case of repeated violation by the said licensee, proceedings for the revocation of the license shall be initiated,” it further said.
The meeting was held to address a complaint filed by the Ministry of Defence against Geo News for naming the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency and its chief Lt Gen Zaheerul Islam for an attack on leading journalist Hamid Mir, who was seriously injured in a shoot-out in April.
The Defence Ministry had demanded that the licence of Geo News be suspended after it reported that the ISI was behind the attack on Mr Mir in Karachi. The controversy erupted after Mr Mir’s brother accused “certain elements” in the ISI and its chief of orchestrating the attack, a charge denied by the military.
Geo TV network and Jang Group, which owns the channel, on May 26 had issued an apology to Pakistan’s armed forces and the ISI for making the allegations.
The move to suspend channel’s licence came a day after Geo and Jang Group served a legal notice on the Ministry of Defence, the ISI and PEMRA for defaming and maligning the group by accusing it of working on an anti-Pakistan agenda, inciting and fuelling violence against the group, and pressuring cable operators to black out Geo channels.