Pemra issues show-cause notice to ARY News for airing 'hateful, seditious' content against govt

Published August 9, 2022
A file view of Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority headquarters in Islamabad. — Dawn
A file view of Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority headquarters in Islamabad. — Dawn

The Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) on Monday issued a show-cause notice to ARY News for airing what it called was "false, hateful and seditious" content based on "absolute disinformation with a clear and present threat to national security by instigating rebellion within the armed forces".

Prior to the issuance of the notice, ARY News went off air in many parts of the country on Monday evening.

In its notice, the watchdog referred to a news piece aired by the TV channel on Monday regarding the alleged "strategic media cell of the government tasked with maligning PTI Chairman Imran Khan through anti-military narrative" and termed the news anchor who delivered the "breaking news" as "biased".

The notice went on to say that PTI leader Dr Shehbaz Gill was also invited via a telephonic call for his comments, who made "highly hateful and seditious" remarks tantamount to "incite armed forces towards revolt".

During his talk with the channel, Dr Gill had alleged that the government was trying to provoke the lower and middle tier of the army against the PTI, saying the families of such "rank and file" support Imran Khan and his party "which is fuelling rage within the government".

He had also alleged that the "strategic media cell” of the ruling PML-N was spreading false information and fake news to create divisions between PTI chief Imran Khan and the armed forces.

Gill had said the government leaders, including Javed Latif, Defence Minister Khawaja Asif and former National Assembly speaker Ayaz Sadiq, had lambasted the army in the past "and they were at the government positions now".

"The statement made by the guest on ARY News is a violation of Article 19 of the Constitution as well as Pemra laws. Airing of such content on your news channel shows either weak editorial control on the content or the licensee is intentionally indulged in providing its platform to such individuals who intend to spread malice and hatred against state institutions for their vested interests," the watchdog stated.

"Dr Gill tried to malign the federal government, claiming the government functionaries are spearheading a campaign through social media cell for propagating anti-army narrative."

The Pemra also said the comments aired by the TV channel were in sheer violation of Section 20 of Pemra Ordinance 2002 and Electronic Media (Programmes and Advertisements) Code of Conduct 2015 as well as the orders of the Supreme Court in a 2018 suo motu case.

Also read: SC orders Pemra to ensure editorial monitoring of shows before they are aired

"The Authority under the extraordinary circumstances is constrained to ban the transmission of such content on ARY News which is in violation of the Constitution," the watchdog said.

The Pemra sought a response from the chief executive officer of ARY Communication Pvt. within three days with an explanation "as to why appropriate legal action may not be initiated against the channel".

The body also directed the channel's CEO to appear in person on August 10, 2022, at 2pm at the regional office of Pemra Islamabad along with a written reply.

"In case of non-compliance, ex-parte legal action shall be taken against M/s ARY Communication Pvt. Ltd. (ARY News) in accordance with relevant provisions of Pemra Laws," the notice warned.

Meanwhile, PTI leader Shireen Mazari condemned the suspension of the TV channel's transmission, saying the channel was "forcefully removed from TV screens by the imported government as it cannot bear being exposed for what it is — inept and corrupt".

ARY News ‘pulled off air’ in parts of country

Dawn reported that ARY News had gone off air on Monday evening in many parts of the country.

While local cable operators replaced the ARY News slot with other channels, the subscribers of Nayatel saw a static screen displaying the message: “The channel is currently unavailable. Sorry for the inconvenience.”

Some subscribers in Karachi received a message from their cable operators that the service had been suspended. The message read: “Valued customer, the transmission of ARY News is suspended on instructions of Pemra till further notice. Inconvenience is regretted.”

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