Pemra takes 24News TV channel off air, commits 'economic murder' of 1,000 journalists
Journalists, politicians, lawyers, traders join countrywide protests to condemn govt’s action
Another dark day in Pakistan’s history was witnessed on Monday as Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) bulldozing all norms of upholding the freedom of media shut down the 24NewsHD TV channel for showing the mirror to the government.
The viewers will not be able to watch the 24News TV channel now as the Pemra also took off the channel from the satellite, rendering nearly 1,000 employees facing the prospects of losing their jobs amid growing coronavirus pandemic. Some observers even declared the government's step as "economic murder" of about 1,000 families of newsmen.
Making yet another authoritarian move, the PTI government stifled a strong voice promoting the truth.
The move is the latest part of the series of actions taken against media houses and journalists ever since the PTI came into power in 2018.
This anti-media step is a result of the 24NewsHD’s independent editorial policy as the government isn’t ready to face the truth and criticism on the policies designed to benefit different mafias, which are damaging to the people’s interests.
Despite the relentless pressure and cheap tactics, the 24NewsHD management refused to bow down before this dictatorial attitude and decided to stand for media freedom and the people’s right to access to facts.
As a result, journalists are now on the streets to register protest against the government and the way institutions are being used to curb democratic rights and freedoms under the guise of a democratic government.
Journalists organisations, political leaders, legal fraternity and even the traders have joined countrywide protests and blocked highways and roads to condemn the PTI government’s senseless action against the 24NewsHD TV channel.
That’s the reason people of different segments of life and politicians are united against the government’s fascist approach. And even a ruling party lawmaker expressed his serious reservations over cancelling the licence of 24NewsHD.
Talking to 24NewsHD on Monday, Chaudhry Asif Majeed – a Punjab Assembly member from Rahim Yar Khan – asked the government to take notice of the issue. 24NewsHD had always followed positive journalism, he said and suggested that the problems, if there are any, should be resolved through discussion.
On the other hand, PML-N senior vice-president Shahid Khaqan Abbasi said the way media was targeted by the incumbent government had no precedent in the country’s history.
There won’t be any minus one or two as all the 160 [the number of votes obtained by the government for the budget] would have to go, he remarked.
Talking to media persons after appearing before an accountability court in Karachi, the former prime minister said they would not allow any undemocratic force to come into power.
On the other hand, PPP leader Senator Sherry Rehman said what kind of democratic government the country had which was only interested in listening to praise.
24NewsHD was being punished for standing up for truth, she said and added that the owners of media houses were being jailed and TV channels banned only for showing the true face to the government.
Those describing themselves as “media production” were proving to be a curse for media, Sherry remarked as she asked the government to stop targeting politicians and media.
Similarly, PML-N spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb, in a series of tweets, described Prime Minister Imran as a repressive and fascist ruler who, she added, had nothing to do with democracy.
Those speaking truth are being deprived of their jobs in Naya Pakistan, she said and asked Imran to explain what the 1,000 affected families do for employment as the TV channel’s workers were being made jobless.
Marriyum remarked that the country, Parliament, economy, jobs, bread, business and media had been closed and the only running was the mouths [of the ruling party members].
PPP leader Sharjeel Memon said cancelling the licence of 24NewsHD was an attack on media and added that the TV channel stood for truth and facts.
Similarly, JUI-F MNA Maulana Salahuddin Ayubi described the PEMRA decision as curbs on entire media.
Meanwhile, Lahore Press Club President Arshad Ansari and Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) Secretary-General Rana Azeem warned the government against using cheap tactics against media.
Talking to City42, senior political analyst Salim Bokhari said it seemed that Imran Khan government did not have any knowledge of history as even dictators taking such steps had to leave the office. It didn’t happen even in a dictatorship, he added.
Addressing a protest outside Lahore Press Club and at Thokar Niaz Beg, PFUJ Secretary General Rana Azeem, Majeed Ghauri (president of rickshaw union), Jamaat-i-Islami representative Zeeshan and other speakers said they would fight against the current dictatorship and its fascist tendencies.
In Faisalabad, the journalists' community gathered in solidarity with 24NewsHD and said different mafias working under the PTI government were being protected and media was being silenced so that the reality could not be shared with the public.
Similar views were expressed in Multan as journalists, local political leaders and civil society members joined the protest against the dictatorial government.
They said the decision against 24NewsHD was tantamount to muzzling media freedom, as they addressed a protest organised by Sheikhupura Press Club.
One can easily understand how these ugly tactics are being employed if we look at another case. It is about Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman – the owner and editor-in-chief of Jang/Geo Group. He is now in detention for nearly four months on the basis of mere allegations that have not been shaped into charges/reference by the NAB. The reason is simple: the government is acting in a fascist manner and these are just baseless allegations. The only objective in its mind is to muzzle and subjugate the media.