Geo TV slapped with 15-day ban, Rs 10 million fine

* Decision taken on Defence Ministry’s complaint over allegations against ISI chief * Suspension will continue in case of non-payment of fine * TV channel sues ISI for ‘defamation’

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Electronic Media Regularity Authority (PEMRA) on Friday suspended the licence of Geo News for 15 days and imposed a fine of Rs 10 million, a day after Geo TV and Jang group served a legal notice to the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), government and the media watchdog for ‘defaming’ and ‘maligning’ the media house by accusing it of working on anti-Pakistan agenda.
The decision by PEMRA was taken on a complaint by the Defence Ministry. 
The ministry had demanded that the licence of Geo News be cancelled for broadcasting the accusations by Hamid Mir’s brother against ISI and its chief Lieutenant-General Zaheerul Islam. Amir Mir had accused that the spy agency and its chief were involved in attack on his brother that took place in April this year in Karachi.
In case of non-payment of fine, the suspension of the licence will continue, the PEMRA order said. The authority decided that in case of repeated violations by Geo News, proceedings for revocation of its licence will be initiated.
The media group issued a statement after the decision, saying that it had already been facing the ‘wrath’ of the regulatory body as its transmission was blocked in 90 per cent of the country for the last 45 days. “Geo News was not provided with any evidence nor was its stance heard by PEMRA. The channel has apologised and has already incurred Rs 2 billion losses,” the statement added.
Ahead of the suspension of licence, Geo TV and Jang Group served a legal notice to the ISI, government and media regulatory body, demanding a public apology within 14 days and payment of Rs 50 billion in damages incurred on the group.
“All must publicly apologise to the group and all its workers and their families for levelling absolutely baseless, wrong and shameful allegations without any proof besides endangering the lives of thousands of professionals attached with the group,” reported an English daily owned by the group.
“More than 8,000 journalists, workers and professionals attached to the group and their families are not only being harassed but also attacked and tortured across country,” it said. Geo TV, according to its senior management, has lost more than 80 per cent of its viewership in less than two months. Most of the cable TV providers have taken it off from their menu list. The remaining channels owned by the group have been moved to the bottom on channel lists of cable operators where the signals are often weak.
Geo News is also facing the wrath of the religious community for airing ‘blasphemous’ content during a morning show. The media group subsequently apologised over both the issues.

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