The Ministry of Interior has cancelled the no-objection certificate (NOC) of ARY Communications Private Ltd, citing "adverse reports from agencies" as the reason behind the decision, it emerged on Friday.
The notification issued by the ministry, dated August 11, to the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) reads: "The NOC issued in favour of M/S ARY Communications Private (Ltd). is cancelled with immediate effect and until further orders on the basis of adverse reports from agencies."
Reporting on the development, ARY News' English website called the cancellation by "the coalition government led by PML-N" an "economic murder of more than 4,000 media workers associated with the news channel". The report also called it a "a new move against the journalist fraternity", saying this was done without any notice.
"The channel’s administration condemned the suspension of its transmissions, saying the network is being victimised by the federal government," it added.
The decision from the Interior Ministry comes two days after the Sindh High Court directed Pemra and cable operators to immediately restore the transmission of ARY News, which had been suspended on orders of the government.
ARY News embroiled into a controversy after PTI leader Shahbaz Gill uttered "seditious remarks" against the Pakistan Army while talking to the TV channel earlier this week. Later on Tuesday, he was taken into custody at Banigala Chowk in the capital.
Gill was subsequently booked on charges of sedition and inciting the public against state institutions.
The ARY report published today also highlighted that the channel had issued a clarification that Gill’s statement was his personal opinion and had nothing to do with the channel’s policy.
Hours after Gill's arrest, Pemra had issued a show-cause notice to ARY News for airing his controversial remarks, which the authority described as "highly hateful and seditious" and tantamount to inciting the "armed forces towards revolt".
Politicians, journalists condemn govt action
Meanwhile, politicians and journalists denounced the government's move to revoke the license of the channel.
PPP Secretary General Farhatullah Babar expressed concern, saying "using state power arbitrarily will backfire".
"Effects of law of diminishing returns already becoming apparent," he tweeted.
Senior journalist Talat Hussain called it "serious business", saying the decision could be challenged in the court.
TV journalist Imran Riaz Khan alleged ARY news was "continuously under attack".
Columnist Shama Junejo termed the move an "intense step".
Senior PTI leader Asad Umar said "the tide of history cannot be stopped by coercive illegal measures."
PTI leader and former state minister Farrukh Habib also strongly condemned the cancellation of the channel's license and said the government was "harming" the country by taking such coercive measures.