Pakistan’s largest television network Geo has said it is being forced off the air by cable operators in multiple parts of the country. The military hand is suspected behind this development. Widely seen as the military exerting its full weight on civilian institutions in Pakistan, the move has come amid the impending Supreme Court verdict in the Nawaz Sharif corruption case.
“We are off the air in 80% of the country,” New York Times quoted Mir Ibrahim Rahman, the chief executive of the network, as saying on April 6. The Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority has even put out a notice seeking smooth transmission of the channel, denying any hand in the blockage.
The move is largely believed to be taken on the back of its critical news coverage on Pakistan as well as the articles critical of decisions made by the country’s army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa.
The military has been upset with Geo in the past as well. The curbs on Geo started in March this year when Geo News was shut down in cantonment areas across Pakistan and residential neighborhoods that are administered by the military, New York Times reported.
It’s not just the news channel that is being blocked. The network’s entertainment and sports channels are facing the same fate, as cable operators refuse to broadcast them.
Also in 2014, the news channel’s license was temporarily suspended after the channel’s popular talk show host Hamid Mir, attacked by gunmen in Karachi, and his relatives accused the ISI of being involved in the assault.
The Committee to Protect Journalists has also expressed concern over the situation. “The arbitrary suspension of Geo TV on cable TV is a direct assault on Pakistan’s constitutionally guaranteed right to access information,” Steven Butler, the committee’s Asia programme coordinator, said in a statement, according to the New York Times.
Geo News has asked viewers to complain if they are unable to access the channels