Citing “provocative statements against the state institutions and officers,” the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) on Sunday banned any live or recorded broadcast of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan’s speeches on all satellite TV channels with immediate effect.
In an order issued hours after the ousted prime minister addressed his party workers outside his Zaman Park residence—following an attempt by Islamabad police to arrest him over non-appearance in the Toshakhana case—the regulator accused Khan of “continuously alleging state institutions [sic] by levelling baseless allegations and spreading hate speech through his provocative statements against state institutions and officers, which is prejudicial to the maintenance of law and order and is likely to disturb public peace and tranquility.”
Noting that TV channels were persistently ignoring directions to implement a time-delay mechanism, it directed all satellite TV channels to stop broadcasting live and recorded speeches/press talks of Khan “with immediate effect.”
In his speech on Sunday, the PTI chief had reiterated his allegations of a security official plotting to harm him, as well as repeated accusations of the prime minister and interior minister being involved in an attack on his long march last year.
PEMRA also directed all satellite TV channels to ensure that an “impartial editorial board” was constituted to ensure that their platforms were not used by anyone for “uttering remarks in any manner which are contemptuous and against any state institution and hateful, prejudicial to law and order situation in the country.” It channels failed to comply, it warned, their operating licenses would be suspended under Section 30 of the PEMRA Ordinance, 2002 without any show-cause notice in public interest.
This is the third time the media regulator has banned the broadcast of Khan’s speeches or press conferences. Last year, PEMRA similarly banned the live coverage of Khan’s speeches after he allegedly threatened a judge and two senior police officials over the arrest of his former aide, Shahbaz Gill. That ban ended on directions of the Islamabad High Court (IHC), which Khan had approached for relief. Two months later, PEMRA banned the broadcast of Khan’s press conferences after he accused—without evidence—the prime minister, the interior minister and a senior military official of colluding to plot his assassination. That ban was lifted on the instructions of Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb, who said the government believed in “democratic principles and constitutional freedoms of expression.”
The PTI has announced that it would challenge the ban in court, claiming that it reflects the “panic” of the government.
Within hours of PEMRA’s notification, ARY News fell victim to the directions after it broadcast clips of Khan’s afternoon address in its nightly news bulletin. In a notification to the private broadcaster, the regulator noted that its senior executive vice-president, Ammad Yousaf, had acknowledged the ban in a posting on Twitter but had failed to act on its directions. In this regard, it said, ARY News’ broadcast was being suspended “with immediate effect” and would continue until “further orders.”