Pakistan's ARY news channel on Wednesday reported that the police in Karachi arrested its head and registered an FIR against the CEO and others in connection with some controversial remarks made by opposition party leader Shahbaz Gill during a news programme.
The Karachi police arrested the head of ARY News Ammad Yousuf from his residence and booked producer Adeel Raja, anchor-persons Arshad Sharif and Khawar Ghuman, apart from CEO Salman Iqbal, in connection with the news channel's August 8 bulletin that showed Gill, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) leader, making ”hateful remarks” against the Pakistan Army, the Dawn cited the FIR as saying.
Sharif and Ghuman participated in the programme as analysts, the FIR said.
The FIR said that by expressing such views in the programme, the PTI and ARY News were creating a divide between sections of the armed forces that expressed loyalty to the party and those that did not.
Gill during his telephonic conversation with the channel alleged the government led by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif was trying to provoke the lower and middle tier of the army against the PTI.
He said that support of families of such ”rank and file’ to PTI chief Imran Khan was "fuelling rage within the government”.
The PTI leader also alleged that the ”strategic media cell” of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) was spreading false information and fake news to create divisions between Khan and the armed forces.
”They are sowing hatred and rebellion in the armed forces,” the FIR further alleged.
The FIR stated that individuals who participated in the programme had ”perpetrated the conspiracy in collusion with the producer, director and CEO”.
Meanwhile, ARY News reported that Yousuf was arrested without a warrant from his residence.
The report added that the police team also took away the digital video recorder (DVR) of the CCTV cameras installed at Yousuf's residence.
Karachi Union of Journalists (KUJ), condemning Yousuf's arrest and the delay in presenting him before the court, in a statement on Wednesday said the association's president Shahid Iqbal appealed to Chief Justice of Pakistan Umar Ata Bandial to take suo motu notice of the arrest and the restrictions on ARY News.
The statement added that the ”tactics” being used against ARY News were the same as the ones used against another channel previously and called on whatever was happening in the political realm to be confined to its domain.
Meanwhile, the Pakistan Electronic and Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) on Tuesday issued a show-cause notice to ARY News for airing comments that it said were ”highly hateful and seditious”, and incited "armed forces towards revolt”.
”The statement made by the guest on ARY News is a violation of Article 19 of the Constitution as well as Pemra laws. Airing of such content on your news channel shows either weak editorial control on the content or the licensee is intentionally indulged in providing its platform to such individuals who intend to spread malice and hatred against state institutions for their vested interests,” the electronic media watchdog stated.
Gill was subsequently arrested by Islamabad police and charged with sedition.
A district and sessions court in Islamabad on Wednesday granted the police two-day physical remand of Gill.
The police were also directed to produce Gill before the court on August 12, while the investigating officer was told to get the PTI leader medically examined.
The court order said Gill's remand was sought for the recovery of the "mobile phone allegedly used for the commission of the offence" for the purpose of voice matching through forensics, and to verify that "the interview given by the accused from the head office of the media house in Karachi".
Speaking to the media outside the courtroom, Gill said there was nothing in his controversial remarks that caused embarrassment.
Arguing that he was a patriot, the PTI leader also asserted that he did not try to instigate anyone.