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Pakistan court restores channel supportive of anti-govt protests

October 23, 2014

A Pakistani court on Thursday ordered the media regulatory authority to restore transmission of a news channel supportive of anti-government protests organised by cricketer-turned politician Imran Khan and a populist cleric.

ARY News, a popular station, was ordered off the air for 15 days on Monday by the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) for “maligning honourable courts and judiciary”.

The channel’s management approached the Sindh High Court on Tuesday to lift the suspension and a judge issued a stay order, allowing cable providers to resume broadcast.

“Yes, the court has given us relief and PEMRA has issued notification to all the cable operators in compliance of the court orders,” Ammad Yousaf, the senior vice president of ARY News told AFP.

“In response to the PEMRA orders, 70 percent transmission of the channel has been restored across the country till now,” he said.

The channel has been vocal in support of a movement to topple the government led by politician Imran Khan and cleric Tahir-ul-Qadri.

They began occupying a square in front of the country’s parliament in mid-August, though Khan has since led several major rallies in other cities while Qadri has announced he will do the same and has left the capital.

Both accuse Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif of vote rigging during last year’s elections, which were rated as credible by local and foreign observers.

It was the second time the national watchdog had suspended a television station in little over four months after GEO News was taken off air in June over a row with the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI), Pakistan’s main spy agency.

Geo News anchor Hamir Mir was shot three times but survived, with his family blaming the then-chief of the ISI for the attempted murder.

The channel broadcast images of the spy chief along with the Mir family allegations for eight hours, infuriating the military which filed a complaint to PEMRA seeking the channel’s closure.

Pakistan began awarding licences to private channels in 2002, leading to a media boom and a sharp rise in critical reporting.

Dispatches from AFP concerning freedom of information, censorship and news coverage in regions where independent media is under threat.