Popular Pakistan TV station critical of government taken off air

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A popular Pakistan television station critical of the current government has been taken off air in much of the country, the channel said Tuesday.

An official from ARY News -- which supports ousted former prime minister Imran Khan -- told AFP it had been blocked by Pakistan's media authority for allegedly airing “seditious” content.

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Ammad Yousaf, vice president of the network, said the decision was “illegal and ridiculous,” and would be challenged in court.

A notice seen by AFP from the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) to ARY said “hateful, seditious and malicious content on your channel raises serious concerns about your mala fide intent.”

A PEMRA official confirmed the authenticity of the notice, which directed the channel's CEO to appear for a hearing on Wednesday.

ARY is one of Pakistan’s biggest private TV channels and has long supported Khan, who has been critical of the country's powerful military since being ousted by a no-confidence vote in April.

The PEMRA notice referred to an appearance on ARY Monday by an official of Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, alleging he made comments “tantamount to inciting the rank and file of armed forces towards revolt.”

Criticism of the country’s powerful security establishment has long been seen as a red line in Pakistan, ranked among the world's most dangerous countries for media workers.

On Tuesday ARY was broadcasting as normal in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, a Khan stronghold, but appeared to be off the air in other provinces -- or was not being carried by local cable operators.

The Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists warned of nationwide protests if full transmission was not restored.

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