Pakistan bans airing of Imran Khan speeches, suspends ARY channel

Media regulator bars TV channels from broadcasting the former prime minister’s speeches and news conferences.

Islamabad, Pakistan – Pakistan’s media regulator has banned television channels from broadcasting speeches and news conferences by Imran Khan, accusing the former prime minister of attacking the state’s institutions and promoting hatred.

The Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) imposed the ban late on Sunday after Khan gave a speech in the eastern city of Lahore, where he alleged that former army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa was behind his removal from power in April last year.

The cricketer-turned-politician made the speech after police from the capital Islamabad made an attempt to arrest him in a corruption case. Khan, who denies the charges, evaded the arrest.

In its notification, the PEMRA said Khan was “levelling baseless allegations and spreading hate speech through his provocative statements against state institutions and officers which is prejudicial to the maintenance of law and order and is likely to disturb public peace and tranquillity”.

This was the third time the PEMRA has banned TV channels from airing Khan’s statements since he lost the premiership and started holding mass rallies to demand immediate national elections.

Nearly two hours after the ban, the media regulator also suspended the licence of ARY News, a private news channel, for broadcasting Khan’s Lahore speech.

The PEMRA said the news channel – considered sympathetic to Khan – violated its order.

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan condemned the regulator’s decision to ban the airing of Khan’s speeches on electronic media.

“We have always opposed measures to curb voices in the past – whether under the previous government or earlier – and we continue to stand by our commitment to freedom of speech, irrespective of the person’s political opinion,” it said in a statement, demanding that the ban be “lifted immediately”.

Paris-based media watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF) last year ranked Pakistan 157 among 180 countries in its World Press Freedom Index list.

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