The Rural Media Network Pakistan (RMNP) condemns the decisions taken by the federal govt authorities to shut down all television news channels and block access to social media platforms on November 25 following a religious party Teheek-e-Labaik demonstration in Islamabad.
The Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) on November 25 issued a directive prohibiting live coverage of the Police and FC joint operation to end the Faizabad sit-in protest. The PEMRA directive was issued under the Electronic Media (Programmes and Advertisement) Code of Conduct 2015, ordering the channels to refrain from covering the security force’s operation on the political protest. Following the directive, private news channels were taken off-air in Islamabad and other parts of the country, displaying the message: “This channel is suspended on orders of PEMRA”.
The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) also directed the blocking of Facebook, YouTube, Daily Motion, Twitter and Instagram in some parts of the country on the Interior Ministry’s orders. While internet services in Faizabad, Rawalpindi where the protests were happening, were also suspended.
The directives stood for nearly 20 hours after they were withdrawn on November 26 after Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa meeting with Premier Shahid Qakhan Abbasi. According to reports Army Chief told Premier that by taking down channels a wrong message was spread in and outside Pakistan.
Rural Media Network Pakistan (RMNP ) condemned the action on independent electronic media and termed it curb on freedom of expression. RMNP (RMNP ) also expressed concerns over the complete information blackout and demanded the government to immediately restore unfettered access to internet, social media platforms, and mobile services.
The RMNP said: “The blocking of social media platforms and coverage of news events violates the people’s right to know and access to information. The censorship of information is against the principles of freedom of expression and the press, which only works to weaken democracy. RMNP urged Pakistan government to ensure the right of citizens to access information is respected in future.