Najam Sethi is seen in Lahore, Pakistan, on July 21, 2014. Sethi's TV program was recently cancelled after receiving complaints from Prime Minister Imran Khan. (AP/K.M. Chaudary)

Pakistani news program cancelled amid defamation suits from prime minister

August 21, 2019 4:20 PM ET

On August 6, 2019, Pakistani broadcaster Channel 24 HD cancelled the “Najam Sethi Show,” a news and political commentary program, after the broadcaster’s management received a phone call from an unidentified individual demanding the show be dropped, according to Najam Sethi, the show’s host, who spoke with CPJ on the phone.

Channel 24 Editor Mohsin Naqvi did not respond to CPJ’s request for comment via messaging app. At the time it was cancelled, the show was facing defamation complaints from Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, according to news reports.

In April, Khan filed a defamation complaint against Sethi with the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority, the country’s media regulator, regarding the journalist’s allegations of problems in the prime minister’s marriage, according to news reports. The regulator fined Channel 24 for 1 million rupees ($6,244) in damages and demanded that Sethi air an apology for “propagating false news,” according to those reports. In an op-ed written after the complaint was filed, Sethi wrote that he would fight the complaint and said that cable operators had blocked Channel 24 in 90 percent of the country after receiving phone calls from “unknown numbers.” That block lasted four days, Sethi told CPJ.

On August 3, an Islamabad court notified Sethi that Khan had filed a 10 billion rupee ($62,441,461) defamation complaint against him for airing “propaganda” about the prime minister’s private life, according to news reports. Khan also requested an order for Channel 24 to bar Sethi from hosting his program, but the judge rejected that request, saying another judge would have to take up that application, according to Dawn.

The Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority did not immediately respond to CPJ’s request for comment via Twitter. The Prime Minister’s office did not immediately respond to CPJ’s request for comment via email.

In 1999, Sethi was detained for nearly a month in relation to work he had done with the BBC, as CPJ reported at the time.

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