As reports emerge that Geo News has been taken off air in various areas across the country, State Minister for Information and Broadcasting Marriyum Aurangzeb has categorically denied that her ministry has issued any directives for the suspension of the channel’s transmission. Talking to Daily Times on Sunday, she said, “the government hasn’t shut down or suspended any channel. Why would we?” She said that the government could only take such a decision if a TV channel violated PEMRA law or the code of conduct. Even when such a violation took place, the PEMRA needed to follow the due process, she added.Aurangzeb said Geo News’ suspension was in violation of PEMRA rules. She said the government had already initiated action against cable networks and cable operators found involved in the matter. “If they don’t address the issue, all of their cable services can be suspended,” she said. The case of partial suspension of Geo TV in many areas across the country since last few days is turning out to be quite curious. No one from among the relevant authorities appears to know who is interrupting Geo News’ broadcast.Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal tweeted about the matter on Sunday, “It is a shame & we will take notice. If it was wrong for a political party to do so in Karachi some time back, how can it be right for anyone else. [sic] Only PEMRA has the legal sanction to do so. Pakistan can’t be a pariah state for freedom of expression.” Distributors, i.e. cable operators, have a huge stake in the electronic media. Speaking to Daily Times, Imran Nadeem, former general secretary of the currently inactive Cable Operators Association (CAP), said he had no knowledge of suspension of Geo News’ transmission, ‘except the one in DHA Karachi, which is mainly due to an ongoing conflict between Geo management and the local cable operators’. Nadeem, however, explained that digital cable distributors in Pakistan could offer no more than 70 channels to the public, while there were more than 150 channels in the country. “This means that some channels are inadvertently pushed off air,” he said.When senior staffers at Geo News were approached, they denied having any ongoing conflict with cable operators in DHA Karachi. A journalist speaking on condition of anonymity said that cable operators in DHA Karachi were not showing Geo News since 2014. Another journalist said there had never been any such problem in the area before 2014. A senior reporter from Islamabad held that the distribution of Jang Group newspapers was stopped in DHAs for no reason in 2014. In April 2014, Geo News was shut down illegally and arbitrarily hours after its senior staffer and veteran journalist Hamid Mir survived an assassination attempt in Karachi. After the attack, Geo News directly accused the then head of the military’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency for having a role in the attack. Subsequently, not only that Geo transmission was abruptly discontinued in many parts of Pakistan especially DHAs. This was followed by a slander campaign against the owner of the media house who was accused of blasphemy in hundreds of FIRs registered against him in different cities.More recently, a top security official had reportedly told around 40 leading journalists in an off-the-record meet-the-press session that some channels, especially Geo News, were crossing red lines. While the official quoted the constitutional guarantee that no one would be allowed to malign state institutions, the provision concerning rule of law and due process were ignored, as per reports of the meeting in the media. The precise nature of the red lines was also not identified. Looking at Geo News’ recent on-air behaviour, two aspects stand out. Firstly, many of its journalists and analysts have held strong views in favour of the 18th constitutional amendment and its edicts on provincial autonomy [another subject discussed in the off-the-record meeting]. Secondly, despite having many programmes and anchorpersons critical of ruling PML-N’s politics, the channel’s news bulletins have shown a sympathetic tilt towards the party, especially its emerging woman leader Maryam Nawaz Sharif.Published in Daily Times, April 2nd 2018.