Lahore, Jul 22: Opposition Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) on Monday alleged that Prime Minister Imran Khan's government has imposed a "complete ban" on the media coverage of opposition leaders especially Maryam Nawaz whom he considers a "big threat" to his rule.
"There was a complete ban on the coverage of Sunday's rally of Maryam Nawaz in Faisalabad (some 150-km from Lahore) on the order of selected prime minister," PML-N spokesperson Marriyum Auranzeb told PTI.
She said police not only arrested more than 50 PML-N workers but also placed containers to stop the people reaching the venue. Auranzeb said the country's most popular news channel (Geo News) was forced off air across the country for airing Maryam's rally. She described Khan as the "fascist leader" of the country and said there is a martial-law in the garb of democracy in Pakistan.
"The WhatsApp message cited the rules of country's media regulator – Pakistan Electronic Media Regulator Authority - that media coverage of under trial, person with a subjudice matter was not allowed.
"Ironically, this rule also bars the media from covering and airing Khan as he has multiple cases subjudice including that of gross irregularities in campaign finance through 18 fake accounts, abuse of government privilege, endorsement of an act of terrorism on state television.
"However, Khan is not subjected to the scrutiny of PEMRA's rules and its selective implementation is being used only as a tool of political victimisation and sabotage of constitutional rights of the opposition parties, especially PMLN,” she said.
Auranzeb further said: “Private news channels are forced to blackout the opposition's public meetings and rallies. Failure to comply ends in the channel being taken off air."
She said Pakistan is a signatory of UN's charter of freedom of expression and press and has the right to freedom of speech and media enshrined in its constitution. "Yet, the Khan government is violating its own constitution and charter of the UN by imposing worst curbs on media in the history of the country," she added.
Washington-based Committee to Protect Journalists on Monday said in a statement "Pakistan's most popular news channel, the privately owned Geo News broadcaster, has been forced off the air or had its channel number abruptly changed in many parts of the country."
"The blockage of Geo News just as Prime Minister Imran Khan visits Washington is an unfortunate illustration of how widespread censorship has become in Pakistan. US officials who meet with Khan should make clear that these blatant attacks on press freedom are unacceptable," said Steven Butler, CPJ's Asia program coordinator.