In an unprecedented move, the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) revoked the operating licence of ARY News after the security clearance of the channel was withdrawn by the Ministry of Interior, paving the way for its permanent closure.
In a notification, the Ministry said: “The NOC issued in favour of M/S ARY Communications Pvt Limited (ARY News) is cancelled with immediate effect and until further orders on the basis of adverse reports from agencies.”
The decision by Pemra was taken during its 172nd meeting which was chaired by re-appointed chief Saleem Baig, reports Dawn news.
Sources in the regulatory authority said Baig chaired the meeting in the presence of three other members, while four members, including the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) chairman, Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) chairman and the interior secretary joined the meeting via video link.
After detailed information and background regarding the renewal of the operating licence, the working paper of the meeting said: “Ministry of Interior vide letter dated 10.11.2021 had initially granted NOC/ security clearance for renewal of satellite TV licences of M/s ARY Communication Ltd. However, the Ministry has withdrawn the NOC in respect of M/s ARY Communication Ltd. (ARY News) vide letter dated 11.8.2022.
“Foregoing in view and based on the fact that the mandatory requirement of security clearance has not been fulfilled since NOC has been withdrawn by Ministry of Interior, the request of M/s ARY Communication Ltd. for renewal of licence for another term of 15 years may be regretted by the authority.”
The decision to shut down the news channel was met with disapproval across the board, Dawn news reported.
The ARY management condemned the ban, saying the network was being victimised by the federal government.
This move is akin to the “economic murder of more than 4,000 media workers associated with the news channel”, it said, adding that the Ministry’s notification will be taken to the courts as it was done without any due notice.
Association of Electronic Media Editors and News Directors (AEMEND) President Azhar Abbas condemned it as an “excessive measure” and said such moves have never worked. He urged the government to immediately withdraw the decision, Dawn reported.
PPP leader and former senator Farhatullah Babar tweeted that the use of state power “arbitrarily will backfire”.
“There may be 101 good reasons but question as to who is competent to cancel, how & whether due process followed must be answered… Effects of (the) law of diminishing returns already becoming apparent,” he tweeted.