World Bulletin/News Desk
A Pakistani television channel is suing the powerful spy agency for defamation over accusations of being anti-state, it said on Friday, in a move unprecedented in a country where public criticism of the military is taboo.
Geo News, part of the privately owned Jang Group, has also given the ISI spy agency 14 days to issue a public apology.
"Geo and Jang Group (have) served a legal notice on the Ministry of Defence, Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority for defaming and maligning the group," the channel said in a report published in a newspaper owned by the media house.
"More than 8,000 journalists, workers and professionals attached to the group and their families are not only being harassed but also attacked and tortured across Pakistan."
In April, Pakistan's Defence Ministry had demanded that the licence of Geo News be suspended after it reported that the ISI was behind the shooting of one of Pakistan's most famous journalists.
The PEMRA media regulator said in a statement on Friday it had formally shut down Geo News for 15 days and imposed a $101,500 fine.
"The authority...took a strong notice of violations committed by Geo News and unanimously decided to immediately suspend the licence of the said channel for a period of 15 days besides imposing a fine of Rs10 million," the regulator announced in a statement.
But even before the PEMRA order, the channel had been taken off the air in several parts of the country since the dispute began, allegedly under army pressure, according to its lawsuit.
Distribution of the parent group's newspapers has also been disrupted.
Last month, the channel apologised for the allegations in an attempt to resolve an issue that has added to tensions between the civilian government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and the all-powerful military.
But temperatures have failed to cool and in a lawsuit the channel has now asked the powerful spy agency to retract its defamatory statements, publicly apologise and pay $500 million in damages.
A spokesman for the military was not immediately available for comment.
April's shooting of Hamid Mir, a journalist anchoring Pakistan's top political news talk show, sent a chill through the journalism community weeks after television anchor Raza Rumi was attacked in the city of Lahore. Rumi survived but his driver was shot dead.
Although Pakistani media have become increasingly vibrant in recent years, with stories exposing corruption or injustices appearing frequently on the pages of the country's many dailies, public criticism of the army or the ISI is largely taboo.
Last Mod: 06 Haziran 2014, 12:56