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Pakistani government moves to cancel licence of country's largest television network

In the aftermath of allegations and counter allegations following the April 19, 2014 attempted murder of popular anchor Hamid Mir, the Pakistan government sought to ban Geo Television, the country's largest TV channel, following a complaint initiated by the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) agency.

On April 22, the federal Ministry of Defence filed a reference with the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) against Geo for tarnishing the ISI's image. PEMRA, which has the authority to suspend or cancel the broadcast licenses, issued a show cause notice asking the Geo administration to submit its reply within 14 days. PEMRA also directed chief executive of Geo News to appear in person on May 6.

Geo has challenged the notice by PEMRA in the Sindh High Court, which has issued notices to the federal government and has fixed May 2 for hearing.

Tensions rose between ISI and Geo after the channel broadcast allegations by Mir's brother that the journalist had told his family, employers, government and army officials that some ISI officials including its Director General, Lt. Gen Zaheerul Islam had prepared a plan to "eliminate" him.

Geo reported that cable operators have blocked Geo's transmissions in military cantonment areas and newspaper vendors in these areas have been directed not to distribute the media group's newspapers. Geo has also alleged that these "illegal" actions have been taken on the orders of "certain forces".

The Council of Pakistan Newspapers Editors (CPNE) in an emergency meeting unanimously declared that the closure of any media house or the cancellation of the licence of any channel or publication will not be acceptable. CPNE said such an action would lead to a grave crisis and would do irreparable harm to democracy in Pakistan. Meeting participants also declared that the right to freedom of speech is enshrined in the Constitution of Pakistan and the state should provide adequate protection to journalists against threats from any quarter.

The meeting strongly condemned the attack on Mir and demanded that the government take immediate and swift action to ensure the safety of all media persons.

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