Pakistan’s largest television network says it has been forced off the air by cable operators in most parts of the country, in a move widely seen as being forced by the military as it flexes its authority over civilian institutions. “We are off the air in 80 percent of the country,” Mir Ibrahim Rahman, the chief executive of the network, Geo, said in an interview Thursday. The censorship has sent a chill through the country’s news media networks, & most have given scant coverage to Geo’s suspension.
In the first week of March, Geo News was shut down in cantonment areas across the country and residential neighbourhoods that are administered by the military. Then, this month, all Geo channels — including news, entertainment and sports channels — started being blocked across the country by cable operators. The network’s channel assignment on the cable distribution network has also been lowered.
The Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority has insisted that it is not behind the move, and put out a notice for cable operators not to disrupt Geo’s transmissions. Geo officials took pains not to publicly blame the military, and the military did not respond to requests for comment about whether it was punishing the network. Nonetheless, the action against Geo is being seen as an unmistakable message from the country’s generals that they would accept no negative reporting.
Geo News has upset the military with its critical coverage of Pakistan’s placement on a terrorism financing watch list this year. More recently, news reports and articles critical of the army chief, Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa , and his domestic and foreign policy preferences, known here now as the Bajwa Doctrine, have also drawn the ire of senior military officials.
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