JOURNALISM UNDER SIEGE: PAKISTAN’S LEADING NEWS CHANNEL IS BEING TARGETED FOR BEING CRITICAL OF GOVERNMENT

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BY: Nasir Mehmood Kiyani

Press in Pakistan is under siege as the leading news channel of Pakistan is being targeted for being critical of the government. After taking over the government, the PMLN-led government targeted the anchors of ARY through false and baseless FIRs.
While talking with ARY News on August 08, Imran Khan’s Chief of Staff Dr. Shahbaz Gill gave his point of view on the government’s strategic media cells’ activities. His remarks were considered as “hateful” against Pakistan Army.
On the same day, PEMRA ordered the cable operators across Pakistan to suspend the transmission of ARY News without issuing any prior notice to the channel’s management.


During a live press conference on August 9, Interior minister Rana Sana Ullah claimed that ARY provided the platform to Dr. Shahbaz Gill to malign the institutions but he could provide any solid evidence in support of his claim. On the same day, ARY’s administration released the official statement and reiterated its stance that ARY always supported only one agenda and that agenda is Pakistan and its prosperity. ARY firmly stands with the ideology of Pakistan and will defend it at any cost.


On August 10, LEAs forcibly entered in ARY’s head of News Ammad Yousaf‘s house in DHA Karachi at 3:00 AM and arrested him without arrest warrant. Law enforcement agencies not only diverted the CCTV cameras at the time of the raid but also took the DVR of CCTV along with them.


Later police confirmed this arrest and said that ARY’s head of News has been arrested on serious charges including waging war against Pakistan, criminal intimidation, statements conducive to public mischief, wantonly provoking with the intent to cause riot, promoting enmity between different groups, abetting mutiny or attempting to seduce a soldier, sailor or airman from his duty. Police also added the charges of sedition in FIR.
Police on August 10, also registered a FIR against President ARY Digital Network Mr. Salman Iqbal, Anchorpersons including Arshad Sharif and Khawar Ghuman and Executive Producer Adeel Raja. All these individuals were booked under ‘sedition’ charges.
Sindh High Court on Tuesday ordered PEMRA to restore ARY’s transmission on the cable network but PEMRA didn’t follow the orders of the Sindh High Court which attracts the contempt of Court charge.


Karachi’s local court today clears ARY’s head of news Ammad Yousaf from all charges including sedition charges and ordered the police to release him immediately.


All major journalist Unions and International forums condemned the registration of cases, arrests and blockage of ARY’s transmission.
The committee to Protect Journalists condemned the harassment of journalists and issued an official statement. “Pakistan needs to get out of the habit of filing legal cases, throwing journalists into jail & blocking programming distribution in response to on-air comments it doesn’t like Authorities should free Ammad Yousuf & drop legal proceedings against other ARY journalists, executives.” Reads CPJ’s statement.


Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists also condemned the act of PEMRA and announced a countrywide protest on Tomorrow. PFUJ also gave the call of protest in front of the PEMRA office on August 15, 2022.


Islamabad Crime and Court Reporters Association also issued a press release and declared it an attack on press freedom.


Association of Electronic Media News Director Association in its press release said that these illegal arrests are not acceptable and an inquiry must be initiated to probe this illegality.