The media regulator is banning TV stations from showing the former prime minister’s speeches and press conferences.
Islamabad, Pakistan – Pakistan’s media regulator has banned TV stations from broadcasting Imran Khan’s speeches and press conferences, accusing the former prime minister of attacking state institutions and promoting hatred.
The Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) imposed the ban on Sunday evening after Khan gave a speech in the eastern city of Lahore, where he alleged that former army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa, was behind his removal from power in April last year.
The cricketer-turned-politician gave the speech after police in the capital Islamabad attempted to arrest him in a corruption case. Khan, who denies the charges, escaped arrest.
In its notification, PEMRA said Khan “is making baseless allegations and propagating hate speech through his provocative statements against state institutions and officials, which is detrimental to the maintenance of public order and is likely to disturb the public peace and tranquility”.
It was the third time PEMRA had banned television stations from broadcasting Khan’s statements since he lost the premiership and began to hold mass rallies to demand immediate national elections.
News channel suspended
Almost two hours after the ban, the media regulator also suspended the license of ARY News, a private news channel, to broadcast Khan’s speech in Lahore.
PEMRA said the news channel – seen as sympathetic to Khan – violated its order. But an ARY official dismissed the allegation.
“The PEMRA statement came after 8 p.m. and almost all the channels showed excerpts from Imran Khan’s speech in their 9 p.m. bulletins. However, the regulator only suspended our license,” the FYR official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Al Jazeera.
The Pakistan Human Rights Commission has condemned the regulator’s decision to ban the broadcast of Khan’s speeches on electronic media.
“We have always opposed measures to limit votes in the past – whether under the previous government or before – and we continue to uphold our commitment to freedom of expression, regardless of political opinion. of the person,” he said in a statement, demanding that the ban be “lifted immediately.”
“PEMRA is a tool”
Hammad Azhar, a politician from Khan’s Pakistan Tahreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, said the country was “sliding rapidly into darkness” and there were “concerted efforts” by the government to threaten its democracy.
“This [ban on Khan’s speeches] is not only unconstitutional because it goes against freedom of expression… There cannot be a total ban on politicians’ speeches. Apart from issues of legality, it is also extremely undemocratic in nature,” he told Al Jazeera.
“This regime is petrified of Imran Khan and his ever-increasing popularity, he is now seen as a prime minister in waiting. We are seeing police action against Khan and party workers. There is a media crackdown. We are becoming quickly a fascist state.
Former PEMRA chief Absar Alam said the law’s implementation in Pakistan was flawed and the media regulator needed to improve.
“PEMRA has become a tool; whoever can use it often does so for their benefit,” he told Al Jazeera.
Alam, however, added that TV stations should take responsibility for what they broadcast.
“There is so much polarization in Pakistan that one’s virtue is another’s sin. Unfortunately, the media has amplified this a lot and they don’t respect media ethics or professionalism,” he said.
Reporters Without Borders (RSF), a Paris-based media watchdog, last year ranked Pakistan 157th out of 180 countries in its World Press Freedom Index list.
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