Pakistan’s Electronic Media Regularity Authority has suspended the licence of the country’s largest and most influential TV station for 15 days.
Since April, the Geo TV channel has been embroiled in a defamation row with the powerful ISI intelligence agency.
The ISI says the channel has unfairly linked the agency to an attack on a Geo talk show host in Karachi.
But officials from Geo, Pakistan’s most watched news channel, have described the licence suspension as unfair.
Supporters of the channel say the suspension is a dark day for media freedom in Pakistan.
Correspondents note that the allegations against the intelligence agency are unusual because few dare upset the ISI – long regarded as one of the most powerful institutions in the country.
Geo TV in the news
- Began broadcasting in 2002, owned by the Independent Media Corporation
- Is Pakistan’s most-watched television channel
- Has the country’s largest newsgathering network
- Has frequently clashed with the authorities
- Angered the ISI with its coverage of the shooting of Hamid Mir in April
- Caused further ire by broadcasting a dance routine denounced as blasphemous
In a statement, the Pakistani Electronic Media Regularity Authority (Pemra) said that they had made the decision following a complaint against Geo TV filed by the defence ministry.
Pemra said it “took a strong notice of violations committed” by the channel and “unanimously decided” immediately to suspend its licence in addition to imposing a 10m Pakistani rupees ($100,000) fine.
It added that if the fine was not paid before the end of the suspension period, the channel would remain off air.
The regulators also warned that if there were more violations, “proceedings for the revocation of [Geo’s] licence shall be initiated”.