Formal complaint claims media outlet has maligned a state institution and recommends the cancellation of its broadcast license.
Pakistan’s Ministry of Defense on Tuesday submitted a formal complaint to the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA), seeking action against Geo TV and Jang Group for defaming a state institution, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Directorate.
Submitted under the PEMRA Ordinance 2002, the complaint claims that Geo News launched a “vicious campaign” of “false accusations” against the ISI, a “state institution tasked to work for the defense, sovereignty and integrity of Pakistan.” According to the complaint, “The telecast in question/campaign was aimed at … falsely linking it [the ISI] with the terrorist outfits/activities.” The statement specifically noted the footage being re-broadcast in India. “Said footage was picked up by foreign media particularly Indian Channels who instead of objectively reporting the incident overplayed it repeatedly,” it said.
“The said reporting has violated the specific terms and conditions of its license,” it said, adding that this was not an isolated incident. “Geo Network has a history of acting illegally in furtherance of the anti-Pakistan agenda,” it said, offering to provide additional evidence if PEMRA required it.
According to the complaint, the editorial team and management of Geo has “clearly” violated PEMRA rules, including casting “aspersions against the Judiciary or the integrity of the Armed Forces of Pakistan” and maligning “any individual in person or certain groups, segments of social, public and moral life of the country,” as per PEMRA rules.
The complaint also points out that print media, especially newspapers published by the Jang Group, published “defamatory, libelous and scandalous material” and reiterates that such “false, malicious and irresponsible” reporting is “continuation of policy” for Geo News.
Citing the evidence provided in its complaint, the Ministry of Defense has demanded that PEMRA “immediately” suspend the license of Geo News and, after investigation, cancel it. In addition, it recommends commencing prosecution of the management of Geo under sections 33 and 36 of PEMRA Ordinance 2002.
Earlier in the day, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan had condemned the attack on Hamid Mir, terming it a national tragedy. However, he said the ongoing attacks on national institutions in the press were regrettable. “It is a matter of serious concern that national institutions are being attacked and blamed without any evidence,” he said in a statement. Key national security institutions are not criticized and maligned in this manner anywhere in the world, he added.
The interior minister also condemned the dissemination of the negative propaganda through local organizations. “Our enemies” spread the information across the globe, he said, in an apparent reference to pundits using the Geo reports to slate the ISI.
On April 19, around 5:30 p.m., Geo News anchor Hamid Mir, who hosts the show Capital Talk, was shot six times while traveling to the channel’s bureau in Karachi. Shortly after the attack, the channel claimed—via his colleagues and family members—the injured anchor had alleged that if he were attacked, the ISI and its chief, Lt. Gen. Zaheer ul Islam, should be held responsible. The channel then demanded action against the ISI with columnist Ansar Abbasi demanding that the ISI chief resign to save face.
The military’s Inter-Services Public Relations wing responded by condemning the attack. However, a spokesman said the channel’s accusations were misleading. “Raising allegations against ISI or the head of the ISI without any basis is highly regrettable and misleading,” the spokesman added.