ISLAMABAD: Media workers from Pakistan’s 24NewsHD are facing the possibility of job losses after the channel was suspended by the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) and ceased operation on August 31.
The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and its Pakistan affiliate, the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ), condemned the suspension order and urged the PEMRA to bring 24NewsHD back on the air.
PEMRA suspended the 24NewsHD’s license following a complaint about the broadcasting of “hate material” during its special 10 Muharram transmission. PEMRA saw the broadcast as a violation of its policies and suspended the license under section 30(3) of the PEMRA ordinance. The regulatory body has issued a show-cause notice to the channel, asking it to reply within 14 days. The channel’s license will be suspended until the completion of the inquiry.
Following the suspension, the future of around 700 journalists and media workers affiliated with the television is uncertain. The issue comes as an intense blow to media workers already challenged by downsizing, pay cuts, leave without pay, and the shutdown of media houses during the Covid-19 pandemic.
This is not the first time PEMRA has targeted the channel. On July 2 this year, the regulatory body suspended its license for airing a current affairs program because its license only permits the broadcasting of entertainment. Similarly, in June 2019, the regulatory authority issued a notice to analyst Najam Sethi for his comments about Prime Minister Imran Khan in a 24NewsHD talk show. The authorities took 24NewsHD and its sister channels offline following a report about the premier in April 2019.
Suspension of broadcast licenses and unnecessary interference with broadcast news content are some of the frequent actions by PEMRA, which has already been threatened by the Lahore High Court (LHC) in July for not restoring the program.
The PFUJ Secretary General Rana Muhammad Azeem said: “The PFUJ is alarmed that the PEMRA’s politically motivated shutdown of 24NewsHD may lead to unemployment of hundreds of media workers of the Channel during the Covid-19. If somebody does unlawful activities, he/she should be held accountable. Booking the CEO of the channel and suspending license is not the appropriate action.”