Acting on complaints of suspension of channels associated with Geo TV Network, the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) on Monday ordered cable operators across the country to restore all channels of the network to their original positions.

The authority said it had received complaints from Lahore and Karachi regarding the suspension of the channels.

Pemra, via a press release, clarified that it had not ordered the closure of any television channel and that the process of suspension of license would begin against operators — Wateen Telecommunication and Worldcall Telecommunication — if the channels are not restored within 24 hours.

Earlier, on Sunday, Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal had expressed concern over the suspension of Geo News in certain parts of the country, clarifying that neither Pemra nor the Ministry of Information had issued any directions for its suspension.

"Only Pemra has the right to suspend a channel," Iqbal said, adding that he had checked with the authority as well as the Ministry of Information, both of whom denied issuing any directions to cable operators to take Geo News off air.

"This has been brought to the notice of the prime minister as well and a high-level session has been called because [if this continues] questions would be raised regarding the transparency and fairness of General Elections."

According to Imran Aslam, the president of Geo TV Network, all five channels of the network are being shut across the country, and not just in Defence Housing Authority (DHA) areas. "This is an attempt to financially cripple the organisation into submission," said Aslam.

"With the elections scheduled within months, some [people] feel that this could be a form of pre-poll rigging. The government appears to be crippled and we are told not to have high hopes from the Supreme Court."

Such is the condition and plight of independent media in Pakistan, Aslam added.

The Geo News website has been running a message on its homepage reminding viewers that access to information is their fundamental right and requesting them to inform the media house if they are not receiving the channel's transmissions.

Geo suspended in several cities

Senior anchor Talat Hussain on Sunday shared via a Tweet that the channel has been suspended in several cities including Karachi, Lahore and Multan.

"Cable operators say they are forced to do it. Government powerless. Financial choking, woes of workers is part of the worst, most blatant censorship we have faced in recent times."

'Repeating same mistakes'

Senior journalist Mazhar Abbas also took to Twitter to speak on the matter, saying: "Time and again it has been proven that ban is counterproductive, whether it [is] on a party, person or on media. Yet, we have a habit of repeating same mistakes time and again..."

Meanwhile, columnist and analyst Imtiaz Alam held the government responsible, calling the suspension of Geo TV "blatant suppression of freedom of press and freedom of expression and people’s right to know".

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