Pakistan media watchdog bans coverage of 11 persons critical of military and previous government

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Pakistan electronic media watchdog has stopped TV channels from giving air space to 11 people, including journalists, accused of criticising the military and the Shehbaz Sharif-led previous government and declared ‘proclaimed offenders’ or absconders by courts.

The Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) issued a directive on Saturday, citing a decision from the Sindh High Court that such people cannot enjoy certain rights like appearing on television, the Dawn newspaper reported.

Pemra directive has also said that under section 27 of Pemra Ordinance 2002, “hereby prohibits media coverage of above-mentioned individuals being proclaimed offenders on electronic media and refrain from airing any news, reports, statements or tickers of these individuals”.

While warning the news channels of serious penalties in case of a violation of the directive, Pemra has also referred the matter to the Council of Complaints.

The 11 persons include Sabir Shakir, Moid Peerzada, Wajahat Saeed Khan, Shaheen Sehbai, Adil Farooq Raja, Ali Nawaz Awan, Murad Saeed and Hammad Azhar.

Shakir, Peerzada, Saeed Khan and Sehbai are journalists who are considered supporters of former premier Imran Khan, who was ousted as prime minister in April last year when he fell out with the powerful military establishment.
Saeed, Awan and Azhar were part of Khan’s government.

Adil Farooq Raja is a former Army major who lives in the UK and has been extremely critical of the Army because of the treatment meted out to Khan.

These people have been implicated in different cases, a familiar tactic to silence critics in Pakistan, and declared ‘proclaimed offenders’ for failing to appear before courts. It is believed that they have fled the country to evade their arrests.

The tenure of the Sharif-led government ended when he dissolved the National Assembly on August 9 to pave the way for a neutral caretaker setup to run the country until the next general elections.

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