Photo shows a man watching a television screen tuned to Geo News.—File Photo
ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) on Tuesday disowned the decisions announced by its three members regarding cancellation of licences of three television channels owned by the Geo TV network.
In a press statement issued here, the media regulatory body referred to the media talks held by three private members – Israr Abbassi, Mian Shams and Fareeha Iftikhar – in front of Pamra headquarters earlier today.
The members of the committee had announced the suspension and also ordered that Geo TV offices be sealed down.
A spokesman for the regulatory body had also said in a statement that the meeting called today had no legal validity “since it was not called officially in spirit of Rule 3(4) of Pemra Rules 2009.”
According to the Pemra rules listed on its website, a meeting of the regulatory body can be convened on the request of at least one half of its total membership.
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The press release issued by Pemra said the majority of authority members in 95th meeting held on May 9 had decided to refer the case to the ministry of law for legal opinion.
“The decision of seeking opinion from the Law Division was taken in all fairness to avoid any future legal consequences in such a critical issue.”
The complaint against Geo Entertainment was already referred to the Council of Complaints (CoC) Sindh.
“The CoC in its meeting called on Tuesday had already recommended about the status of Geo's licence. The minutes of the CoC were awaited and the Authority would consider this matter in the next scheduled meeting,” the press release added.
The Pamra clarified that Tuesday's meeting was called without following the laid down procedures and thus had no legal standing.
According to Rule 3(4) of PEMRA Rules 2009, the Chairman or as the case may be more than half of the total members can call the meeting i.e. out of twelve members at least seven members can call a meeting.
This was an informal meeting attended by five members, said the regulatory body.
“The Executive Member was not even asked to officially convene the meeting and notify it through the Secretary to the Authority, which was the set procedure,” the release said.
The meeting convened by these members was without any official intimation or invitation to other members in accordance with the procedure, it added.
“The Authority's committee was functioning and was exercising the power of Chairman in day to day affairs and taking decisions with requisite quorum,” it said.
Press conference by private members of Pemra committee
Speaking at the press conference, private Pemra member Israr Abbasi, who attended the meeting, had said that one-third members were present today, which he claimed was enough to complete the quorum.
Abbasi said government members did not attend the meeting.
During their announcement, the members said that a final decision on the revocation of the licences will be announced following a meeting on May 28, which will also be attended by government representatives.
The committee formed by Pemra was tasked to review the Ministry of Defence's application filed against Geo TV network for leveling allegations against an intelligence agency of Pakistan.
"All members (present) today unanimously decided that the licence for Geo News be cancelled. However, due to a legal formality that could not be completed, we have sent our recommendations to the Council of Complaints, advising that they respond before May 28, the date for our next meeting," said Mian Shamsur Rehman, a member of the committee.
The suspension is to stay in effect until May 28, when another session of the committee will be called to decide on the final decision regarding cancellation of the licences, they said.
“On May 28 during our next meeting, we will give a final decision on (cancelling licences of) Geo News, Geo Tez and Geo Entertainment,” said Shamsur Rehman.
Abbasi said there were members representing the public and the provinces at the meeting which resulted in the suspension of Geo News, Geo Tez and Geo Entertainment.
Speaking to a private TV channel, Abbasi added that in the next meeting the legal process against Geo would be decided upon, and until then, the group’s licenses will remain suspended.
He said that there was no need to refer this decision to the law division as Pemra has been given the authority to take such a decision.