Pakistan's media regulatory authority Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) has suspended the license of ARY News TV channel for broadcasting former Prime Minister Imran Khan's speech in Lahore.
The ban occurred late on Sunday night, just two hours after PEMRA had banned television channels from broadcasting speeches and news conferences by Imran Khan. The government authority swung into action as former PM and chief of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) made a speech where he attacked the Pakistan government and accued former Army Chief Qamar Javed Bajwa of orchestrating his removal from the office.
ARY News was broadcasting this speech of Imran Khan from Lahore, which caused the suspension of its license.
The regulatory authority said that the news channel violated its order of not broadcasting Imran Khan's speeches. However, the channel refuted this allegation.
What ARY said: The channel has accused the PEMRA of selective action agaist ARY. It claims that the by the time the statement from the body came after 8 pm, almost all the channels had run clippings of the Imran Khan's speech in their 9 pm bulletins. "However, the regulatory authority suspended only our license," an ARY official told Al Jazeera.
Moreover, ARY News channel is also considered to be sympathetic towards Imran Khan, and this might also be one of the reasons why the apex body took a strict action against the channel.
Why? This action against ARY News, which is highly critical of the Shehbaz Sharif government and slightly soft on Imran Khan looks more like a political action.
This is the second time ARY News has been suspended for broadcasting speeches of Imran Khan.
PEMRA's actions against ARY started in August, 2022, when the news channel had broadcasted PTI leader Shehbaz Gill's speech where he had criticised the Pakistan Army. The body had then issued a show-cause notice to the channel for airing hateful and seditious content against the government.
However, the Islamabad High Court in September 2022 revoked the suspension and ordered the apex body to restore the channel within an hour.
Does ARY News favours Imran Khan? In November 2022, Daily Pakistan reported that ARY News had taken the top spot in TRP ratings while Geo News, which is highly critical of Imran Khan, slumped to fourth spot. Bol News, another Pakistani news channel which reportedly favours Imran was on the second spot.
Many saw this as a clear statement that Ary News favours Imran Khan and that the former PM also returns the favour.
Is PEMRA a government tool? Former PEMRA chief Absar Alam has said that the implementation of law in Pakistan is flawed and the media regulator needs to improve itself. "PEMRA has become a tool; whoever can use it often does it for their interest," he told Al Jazeera.
"There is so much polarization in Pakistan that one person's virtue is another person's sin. Unfortunately, media has amplified this a lot and they are not following media ethics or showing professionalism," he said.
Imran Khan in trouble: Luck is not on the side of Imran Khan these days it seems. He has been making rounds of the courts to appear in at least four cases lodged against him. Among these, the Toshakhana case, where Imran is accused of hiding relevant information on the gifts received by him is troubling him a lot.
The Islamabad High Court had issued a non-bailable warrant against him, however, the police was not able to find him.
The district and sessions court of Islamabad has rejected PTI chief's plea for cancelation of this warrant.