Pakistan media body shuts down Bol News in another crackdown on free speech

Pakistan media body shuts down Bol News in another crackdown on free speech
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Islamabad [Pakistan], September 5 (ANI): In another instance of curb on free speech, the Pakistan media authority ordered the closure of Karachi-based media conglomerate Bol News, citing failure to secure security clearance from the interior ministry.

Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) closed down transmission of Bol News and Bol Entertainment after revoking the licences of the channel, the Dawn newspaper reported. The media authority said that the matter had been pending before the Sindh High Court until last year.

According to Dawn, Pemra said the SHC also wrapped the case in 2021. The channel was informed that it could not be allowed to operate until the Ministry of Interior issued a security clearance, the report added.

“Hence, the Pemra reviewed all records, court orders, and notices from the interior ministry and subsequently decided to revoke licences issued to Labbaik (Pvt) Ltd (Bol News and Bol Entertainment) with immediate effect,” the order read.

Pak media watchdog said that the licence of Bol Entertainment expired in December last year and the company did not approach Pemra for its renewal.

This is the second such case in recent months that has invited criticism from Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI). Earlier, ARY News was also barred. But later the ban was revoked after severe backlash from all quarters of society.

Former Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan, who is embroiled in the political slugfest with the coalition government said Shehbaz Sharif’s government has taken media censorship to fascistic levels.

“Imported govt has taken media and journalists’ censorship and persecution to fascistic levels. Now Bol has been suspended simply because it gave us coverage. Message to all media houses is to blackout the largest & most popular national pol party from mainstream media. Unacceptable,” Khan tweeted.

Pakistan is one of the world’s deadliest countries for journalists, according to Paris-based Reporters Without Borders (RSF).

Any journalist who crosses the red lines dictated by Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) – an intelligence agency offshoot – is liable to be the target of in-depth surveillance that could lead to abduction and detention for varying lengths of time in the state’s prisons or less official jails.

The Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), Pakistan’s leading military intelligence agency, is prepared to silence any critic once and for all, according to the media watchdog.

Under the guise of protecting journalism, Pakistani law is used to censor any criticism of the government and the armed forces. The Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA), created in 2002, is concerned less with regulating the media sector than with regulating the content it publishes.

As a result of these ambiguously worded laws, journalists who cross the implicit lines dictated by the authorities are exposed to heavy administrative and criminal penalties – up to three years in prison for “sedition”, for example. (ANI)

This report is auto-generated from ANI news service. ThePrint holds no responsibility for its content.