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Ban/Suspension of ARY News Transmissions?

Many will try to confuse you by equating this with the GEO suspension episode. They will argue that when GEO was under pressure by military and agencies then did not we say that now freedom of press/media is not safe. While difficulties for all media in Pakistan are increasing, for instance the beating of TV teams by Police at D-Chowk in the first week of Sept, and now Express camera team and reporters in Karachi Jalsa by PPP Jiyalas for showing empty spots in the Jalsa, but yet all episodes are also different from each other. It is important to understand the distinctions – the characters, the motivations – since ultimately from this conflict will evolve a better regulatory framework helped by self-regulation. For that to emerge we will need clearly defined and understood principles.

ARY News is a large media platform with News and several programs and “Khara Such” is one program on it, however popular it may be. What GEO did on 19th April was a channel broadcast by its News. News represents Channel management and decision making; individual Current Affairs programs have much more freedom and much less control of channel upon them. Mubashir Luqman has a very aggressive style of presentation and he does mistakes, but many programs on GEO and other channels have been doing their share of blunders: disinformation, false claims intentional or by mistake and have their own set of prejudices for instance against PPP, PTI, PAT or even against the Army. But Channels have seldom been closed on the basis of a single program or Anchor.

Secondly, when GEO did its controversial News Broadcast on 19th April, PEMRA did nothing. Even when ARMY/ISI moved their application through Ministry of Defense a two week proper Show Cause Notice was issued that clearly defined what is the charge and what is being proposed as penalty; and there was a huge hue and cry from all those “liberals” who are all silent now. When the hearing finally took place in the second week of May 2014, PEMRA could not decide anything because govt instructed its officials not to suspend transmissions or take any adverse step against the channel. Failure of PEMRA then under govt pressure took the conflict and tug of war on streets. When GEO transmissions were finally suspended by PEMRA, it was to settle the dispute to find a way out of the conflict and to resolve the matter. GEO lost a lot in that conflict, but most of it was due to govt exploiting them. (Govt helped them as much as it could, but still GEO suffered their politics unnecessarily)

In contrast, ARY News – which is clearly the voice of opposition- is being treated in a totally different fashion; here the govt controlled PEMRA is taking action that was unnecessary since Channel had already taken off Mubashir’s program from its broadcasts and the case is being heard in court and there is no verdict or determination. For instance first a court has to determine that contempt happened and why. The political overtones of decision making were obvious then in April – July and are obvious now as well. This is all about an irresponsible govt that is trying to reward or punish its allies and opponents in media by using a so called regulator at its DPO or SHO. This is another twist in the unfolding political drama in Pakistan. And like everything else will also be resolved soon. More later.

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