BOL News' logo is seen in Karachi, Pakistan, on May 27, 2015. Pakistan's media regulator recently suspended the broadcaster, but a court later allowed it to resume work. (Reuters/Akhtar Soomro)

Pakistan court suspends regulator’s ban on BOL News broadcaster

On January 22, 2021, the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority, the country’s broadcast regulator, ordered BOL News, a privately owned news channel, to be suspended for 30 days and fined the outlet 1 million rupees (US$6,225), according to news reports and a statement by the regulator.

On January 25, when courts reopened after the weekend, BOL News challenged that order at the Sindh High Court, according to Sami Ibrahim, BOL News’ president and managing director, who spoke to CPJ in a phone interview.

The court suspended the broadcast ban and fine, allowing BOL News to resume broadcasting immediately, and scheduled a hearing in the case for January 27, Ibrahim told CPJ.

In its January 22 statement, the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority alleged that Ibrahim and a senior correspondent at the network made “contemptuous remarks” during a January 13 program in which they discussed the appointment of judges to the Lahore High Court. The statement alleged that those remarks cast aspersions on the court, in violation of Pakistan’s constitution and of broadcast regulations

Ibrahim told CPJ that he and the correspondent had discussed the slow pace of appointing judges at that court. Similar concerns have been voiced by legal bodies including the Supreme Court Bar Association and the Pakistan Bar Council, according to Dawn.

In interviews with human rights news outlet and with CPJ, Ibrahim denied making any offensive or contemptuous remarks, and alleged that the action against BOL News was an unlawful order stemming from a personal grudge by the regulator’s chairman, whose appointment to that position BOL News had previously challenged in court.

CPJ emailed the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority’s media department for comment, but received a notification that the department’s email inbox was full. CPJ emailed the regulator’s chairman at his official address for comment, but did not receive any response.

In July 2020, the regulator indefinitely suspended the news station 24NewsHD from broadcasting, as CPJ documented at the time; the station has since resumed broadcasting. CPJ has repeatedly documented the regulator authority’s use of its powers to censor the news.