LAHORE: The Pakistan Electronic Media Regula­to­­ry Authority (Pemra) has sus­­­pended the licence of a private news channel, 24NewsHD, for what it called “illegal transmission of news and current affairs content”.

The broadcast media regulator’s action invited criticism even from an important ally of the government — PML-Q.

Pemra says the channel Value TV, for which the licence was issued to the Central Media Network Pvt, had illegally changed its name to 24NewsHD. “The channel was granted the licence to air entertainment content but instead it was persistently illegally and unlawfully airing news and current affairs in continuous violation of its (Pemra) laws,” the regulator says in a statement.

PML-Q leaders — Chau­dhry Shujaat, Pervaiz Ealhi and Moonis Elahi — said the Pemra action was uncal­led for. “Curbs on the freedom of expression always prove fatal for a government,” they said in a statement.

Civil society activists and members of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and journalists, took part in a protest outside the press club on Saturday against the government for suspending the licence of the TV channel.

Pakistan Peoples Party chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari said this “fascist government” was targeting the media to hide its incompetence. PML-N information secretary Marriyum Aurang­zeb said: “The ban on channel NEWS24 without hearing its [management’s] stance, is an act of tyranny, injustice and fascism.”

Published in Dawn, July 5th, 2020