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Pakistani Regulators Revoke License Of Popular TV Channel, Sparking Protests From Journalists

Pakistani authorities have revoked the license of a popular TV news channel days after it aired a critical report about the country's armed forces, sparking outrage among some Pakistani journalists.

The August 12 decision by the Pakistani Electronic Media Regulatory Authority to pull the license of ARY News came four days after the channel was taken off the air following comments by a top aide to former Prime Minister Imran Khan.

One of Pakistan's largest private TV channels, ARY has long been a supporter of Khan, who has been critical of the country's powerful military since being ousted in a no-confidence vote in April.

During an August 8 program, Khan's former chief of staff, Shahbaz Gill, suggested the ruling party was behind a smear campaign against the army, and he called on army officers to not follow "illegal and unconstitutional orders."

The channel was taken off the air that same day, and police arrested Gill on sedition charges in Islamabad the following day. Imad Yusuf, the head of ARY's news department, was also arrested on August 9 in Karachi.

Regulators said their decision to cancel ARY’s license was made "on the basis of adverse reports from agencies."

In response to the revocation, ARY News published a statement calling the decision the "economic murder of more than 4,000 media workers associated with the news channel."

The station's management has also said that Gill's comments were his own opinion and did not reflect the channel's policies.

"We demand immediate restoration of the channel otherwise we will stage countrywide protests," the president of the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists, Afzal Butt, told German news agency dpa.

ARY News has faced suspensions in the past and has also been fined in Britain for airing unsubstantiated news.

Press freedoms have declined sharply in Pakistan in recent years, with a growing number of journalists intimidated and or forced out of their jobs for reports that are critical the military and spy agencies.

With reporting by RFE/RL’s Radio Mashaal

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