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Pak watchdog suspends Geo TV channel

Islamabad, June 6: Pakistan on Friday suspended the country's popular television news channel, Geo, over a tussle with the all powerful Inter Services Intelligence (ISI).

The official Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) said after a meeting in Islamabad, "It took a strong notice of violations committed by GEO News and unanimously decided to immediately suspend its license for a period of 15 days."

The media watchdog also imposed a fine of rupees 10 million, which the channel will have to pay the expiry of the suspension period.

"In case of non-payment of fine, the suspension of the license shall continue," the PEMRA said in a statement.

The Authority also decided that in case of repeated violation by GEO, proceedings for the revocation of the license will be initiated.

The confrontation between the widely seen domestic channel and the ISI began after Geo's anchor Hamid Mir was shot in the port city of Karachi in April.

The channel repeatedly broadcast pictures of the ISI chief Lieutenant General Zaheer-ul-Islam with accusation by Mir's brother that the spy chief was responsible for a bid on Hamid Mir's life.

The repeated broadcast of accusation annoyed the military, which filed a complained against the channel in PEMRA through the defence ministry, which provided the authority with the relevant evidence suggesting "the media group’s involvement in tarnishing the image of the intelligence agency".

Mir who hosts popular Capital Talk show on private Geo TV has been critical of the role of intelligence agencies in the alleged abduction of thousands of people especially from the troubled oil and gas rich Baluchistan province, which was hit by nationalist insurgency in 2004 over alleged denial of provincial autonomy and share in natural resources to Baluchis.

This is the second time the Geo channel has come under fire. It faced a similar situation in 2007 when former military ruler Pervez Musharraf's government had shut the channel for airing highly explosive and derogatory programmes against him after imposition of emergency in the country.

 
 
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