Internet Policy Observatory Pakistan condemns the use of terrorization and violence as a tool to silence the embattled TV news station Geo News after unidentified gunmen torched cable TV operator WorldCall’s premises in the southern city of Karachi on 19 July.
WorldCall along with other regional operators had only recently resumed transmission of Geo News, which a government agency suspended for 15 days last month.
Police and witnesses said between four and six gunmen stormed into WorldCall’s offices, disarmed security guards, ordered employees to leave and then set fire to the place. The blaze gutted the premises but caused no injuries. It also interrupted transmission of Geo News in most parts of the country.
“This was a criminal attack and despite making clear to government and PEMRA the threats Cable TV operators are facing in Pakistan government has failed to offer any protection to our lives and business, Cable TV Association President for Balochistan Mr. Babrak Khan Speaking to iPOP”.
“Cable TV operators have been victims for a decade as they are the networks that raise voices for freedom of expression and freedom of expression in Pakistan. The constant negligence and failure of government to protect operators in the Country will result in increasing censorship and media freedom in the country. As part of civil society we should stand up and support people who are protecting our values for freedom of information and expression. Mr. Arzak Khan speaking to iPOP”.
WorldCall along with other major networks have been receiving threats and have reported them to the police and other authorities including PEMRA but no special measures were taken to protect the companies.
The Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) suspended Geo News for 15 days on 6 June after it broadcast claims by its leading anchor, Hamid Mir, that the intelligence agencies were behind the shooting attack in which he was badly injured on 19 April.
Although the 15-day suspension ended a month ago, Geo News still cannot be seen in many parts of Pakistan because threats are deterring cable TV operators from restoring it to the range of channels they offer. On 18 July, for example, an attempt was made to set fire to a cable TV operator in Rahimyar Khan, in the eastern province of Punjab.