Pakistan authorities should immediately unblock broadcasts of privately owned news channels Capital TV, 24 News HD, and Abtak News 247, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
Yesterday, Capital TV posted a notice on Twitter stating that the three channels’ transmissions had been blocked by the country’s broadcast regulator, the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority. Later that day, the Pakistan Broadcasters Association, a private industry association, issued a statement saying that the channels had been taken off air by the regulator without being given a reason or a hearing.
The move came after the channels aired speeches on July 6 by opposition leader Maryam Nawaz leveling accusations of corruption against officials, according to Pakistani daily Dawn.
The Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority has not issued any public notice about the shutdown on its website or official social media channels, and did not immediately respond to CPJ’s emailed request for comment.
“Pakistan’s blocking of the transmission of news channels is simple and blatant censorship,” said Steven Butler, CPJ’s Asia program coordinator. “The Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority or any other authorities responsible for this move should immediately reverse course and restore the transmissions of Capital TV, 24 News HD, and Abtak News 247.”
Mian Tahir, news director at 24 News HD, told CPJ by email that his channel had been blocked in all major cities and in other areas of Pakistan. He said that local cable operators told the broadcaster’s management that the regulator had ordered them to cease transmission of the channel.
The blocking of the three networks came just days after the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority issued notices to 21 news channels on July 6 stating that the broadcasters had violated the regulator’s code of conduct by airing an unedited live broadcast of a speech by Nawaz, according to a report in Dawn and a tweet by the regulator’s official Twitter account.
Since the beginning of this month, a live interview with former President Asif Ali Zardari on GEO TV was terminated shortly after it began, a viral Twitter campaign under the hashtag #ArrestAntiPakJournalists was alleged to have been artificially boosted by fake social media accounts, and three prominent journalists deactivated their Twitter accounts without stating a reason why, according to Dawn, press freedom advocacy group Media Matters for Democracy, and local news reports.
Last year, CPJ issued a report documenting the increased intimidation of Pakistani journalists by the nation’s security forces.