A global media watchdog has slammed the local authorities over the removal of three television channels from the country's airwaves, saying the move was “indicative of disturbing dictatorial tendencies” as pressure mounts on journalists in Pakistan.
The statement from Reporters Without Borders (RSF) comes days after AbbTakk TV, 24 News, and Capital TV all had their broadcasts cut, after screening a press conference with opposition leader Maryam Nawaz.
Authorities say the channels were unavailable due to “technical issues”, but RSF described the outage as an act of “brazen censorship”.
“The RSF is appalled to learn that three Pakistani TV news channels have been suspended from cable networks at the behest of the authorities in reprisal for broadcasting an opposition leader's news conference,” the watchdog said late on Tuesday.
It went on to pin the removal of the channels on the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra).
A senior official with knowledge of the case confirmed the move against the channels, saying the broadcasters had violated the country's “code of conduct” and been warned against airing the press conference with Maryam Nawaz.
Maryam is the daughter of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif — who is currently behind bars for corruption — and her press conference featured a judge reportedly claiming he had been blackmailed into convicting the former premier.
The move came as Prime Minister Imran Khan's administration vowed to block any media coverage and interviews of politicians “who are convicts and under trial”, according to leading English-language daily Dawn.
Last week, Geo News TV abruptly took an interview with former president Asif Ali Zardari off air shortly after it began.