This is not the first time Geo News has faced abrupt suspension amidst an adverse political climate. The channel has been subject to a highly discriminatory attitude by authorities since it moved to Paksat, informed by officials at the outset that it could be taken off air anytime. Not only has the media group incurred a loss of billions of rupees due to obstructions placed by the government in being fully operational, it has also been subjected to unexplained and abrupt suspensions at the whims of broadcasters, regulatory authorities, and reigning governments.

Since the past two months, Geo News has again been forcibly taken off air in various parts of the country, where cable operators have asserted that they have been forced to suspend the channel. There have also been allusions to coercive forces before which the government is powerless and the channel being financially choked in an attempt to blatantly censor the media group.

Where Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal has asserted that neither PEMRA nor the Ministry of Information had issued any directions for its suspension, the coercive elements behind this action should be brought to the fore, as only PEMRA or a court of Law have the legal sanction to block channels. PEMRA Law Section 28 clearly states that a broadcast media or distribution service operator shall not cease or suspend broadcasting except on account of force majeure or with the prior approval of the Authority. In another case, SC has laid down that only PEMRA can block channels and that too after a reasoned order - if cable operators suspend transmission unilaterally, they may be in breach of their license and will have committed a criminal offence.

This move categorically harms the public interest of Pakistan, denying its freedom of expression and freedom to information. The other media houses are susceptible to the same clampdowns if they do not resist this highhandedness by external forces that hitherto not been identified

The prime minister and his administration has to take up this discrepancy very seriously and take responsibility in investigating this illegal and unconstitutional action against Geo, explaining that under what law, charges and authority this suspension was carried out.

If PEMRA has indeed authorised this clampdown, then the charges should be made clear. If PEMRA denies involvement in it then it should investigate into this contravention of its authority. At this juncture, any tampering with media outlets sabotages the transparency and fairness of the upcoming general elections. Access to information is our fundamental right and such a deliberate strangulation of the media without stated cause is against the spirit of democracy.