ISLAMABAD (AP) – An anti-government TV news channel in Pakistan was taken off air for 15 days after a high court ruled that the broadcaster was “maligning” the country’s judiciary, the country’s media regulation authority said.
The closure is apparently linked to the infighting among Pakistan’s numerous media outlets over their coverage of the two-month-long anti-government protests demanding Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif step down over alleged election fraud.
Most of the media have firmly aligned themselves either in support of Sharif’s government or in favor of the opposition, providing plenty of fodder for bitter reports and opinionated talk show hosts.
The Pakistan Media Regulation Authority (PEMRA) said on Tuesday that it was forced to act on a court order and shut down the private ARY News channel.
PEMRA also said the court banned one of the broadcaster’s anchors, Mubashar Luqman, from appearing on any national TV. The ARY was also ordered to pay a fine of 10 million Pakistani Rupees, or $97,000.
The high court in the eastern city of Lahore acted on its own in taking up the case – what is known in legal terms as suo moto – and issued its ruling last week.
ARY has been taking a distinctly pro-opposition stance in its coverage of the protest rallies, which are led by Pakistan’s famous cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan and cleric Tahir-ul-Qadri.
Luqman, the banned anchor, was a prominent participant in the rallies, sometimes appearing in public with Khan during the former cricket star’s anti-government speeches outside the parliament.