Pemra cancels channel’s licence after ministry rejects security clearance

ISLAMABAD, May 4: Pemra Authority has revoked the satellite TV licences of M/s Labbaik (Pvt) Ltd namely Bol News and Bol Entertainment (Pak News) after Interior Ministry rejected security clearance of the company’s directors Shoaib A Shaikh, Ayesha Shoaib Sheikh, Viqas Atiq and Sarwat Bashir.

In its 131st Authority meeting held at Pemra Headquarters Tuesday, the authority took this decision in the light of the recommendations by the Council of Complaints (CoC) Sindh. The council had rendered its opinion after hearing the channels.

The channels have been ordered to surrender the original licenses and clear all the outstanding dues. Instructions have been given to PakSat to immediately stop the transmission of channels, which are no more Pemra’s licensees.

Through a separate order, all distribution networks and cable operators have also been directed to take these two channels off air with immediate effect. Any violation of Pemra’s order would have legal consequences for the violators and Pemra would act against the violators according to law.

The meeting was attended by member Sindh Sarfaraz Khan Jatoi, member KP Shaheen Habibullah, Member Punjab Nargis Nasir, Secretary Information Sardar Ahmad Nawaz Sukhera, Chairman PTA Dr Syed Ismail Shah and was chaired by Pemra Chairman Absar Alam.

Meanwhile, according to a report from Karachi, the Pakistan Broadcasters Association (PBA) Wednesday expressed satisfaction over the step finally taken by Pemra to revoke the licenses being held by individuals who supervised fraud and extortion on an international scale.

In a statement it said: The PBA has always been in favour of freedom of expression but has been strongly opposed to allowing media to be used to further any illegal and criminal intent. Three years ago one of the biggest International Scams was exposed by New York Times. This exposed Axact and its owners of running a Fake Degree/Diploma Mill through which they raked in millions of dollars. This is the same money that was used to finance and launch the TV Channel Bol.”

PBA was shocked at the revelation that the proceeds of crime were being channelled to launch and finance media channels to buy influence and blackmail anyone who threatens to expose this criminal scam.

Hence, PBA decided to get involved to protect the integrity and sanctity of the Media Industry which is regarded as the 4th pillar of the state. Hence PBA moved the Islamabad High Court for revocation of licenses of the channels and has since been fighting to prevent entry of this criminal money into Pakistani media industry.

Finally, PBA on behalf of all electronic media industry of Pakistan, expresses satisfaction over the step finally taken by Pemra to revoke the licenses being held by individuals who supervised fraud and extortion on an international scale.

PBA wants to further specifically point out that the parent company of channel has been prosecuted in the US by the US Justice Department and a company employee has confessed to being part of a $140 million fake degree scam run through company’s Pakistan offices. And that evidence against the company has also been handed over to the FIA by FBI.

PBA has also earlier raised many important questions through a published Ad and had asked Pemra and Government to probe if the channel had customs receipts and NOC from Pemra for any of its broadcasting equipment that all other PBA members had to get as per law.

PBA had also appealed to the courts, Pemra and the government that the channels should also be investigated for their sources of funds. The channels have been on air for more than 6 months, saying themselves on air that they are not accepting any advertising due to their “patriotism”, but where are the expenses being paid from? The authorities in Pemra and SECP should ask through what is their source of income as their paid up capital is in millions, yet billions of rupees have been spent on infrastructure and other expenses, mostly all in cash.

Ch Nisar Ali Khan (Interior Minister), Dr. Atta Ur Rahman (Co-Chairman Science, Technology and Innovation Committee of United Nations Economic Social Commission for Asia and Pacific), Jehan Ara (President Pakistan Software House Association), Anushe Rahman (Minister of IT), Aitzaz Ahsan (Senator, PPP), Dr Arif Alvi (PTI), New York Times, Guardian, BBC and Pakistani media exposed the company as a fake degree company masquerading as an IT company.

The channel backed by this company was also the biggest proponent of hate speech and intolerance and a threat to free and independent media in Pakistan and has been condemned by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, PBA, APNS, CPNE and others. Pemra itself declared the channel as carrying hate speech again and again.

PBA calls on the government to prosecute all those responsible for committing these crimes so that things like this can be prevented in future. PBA also hopes that a proper inquiry would now be initiated to investigate the crimes committed, laws broken and how criminal money was generated, brought into Pakistan and used to finance media channels like this. This whole ugly scam has brought a bad name to Pakistan and to Pakistan’s IT and Media Industry.

PBA believes that freedom of speech is a critical element of any democracy. However unscrupulous elements enteringmedia in the guise of that freedom to whiten their black money and to blackmail the judiciary, bureaucracy, government and media to hide their own crimes, must not be allowed. On world press freedom day, this is a setback to those, who in the guise of freedom of speech were trying to get away with one of the most audacious international level criminal scams in the history of Pakistan.

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