The turmoil over yesterday’s shoe throwing seems not to have quieted down yet in Pakistan, as members of the media protest against government calls to ban the private news channel Geo News for reporting on the England shoe throwing.
After Geo News reported on the shoe incident in Birmingham, members of the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party and top government offiials called a number of cable outlets across Pakistan, demanding that they block Geo’s transmission until further notice. Cable companies that declined had their offices burned, apparently by supporters of the ruling party, and newspaper stands were attacked, with copies of newspapers belonging to Geo’s owner, Jang Media Group, burned.
Protest rallies have been reported across Pakistan, with journalists registering official protests against the government for their crackdown on Geo.
But if the report of the shoe throwing riled the PPP, so too did the report of the PPP being riled by the report. PPP officials now say they are planning a defamation lawsuit against any media outlet that continues to report that PPP supporters were behind the burning of newspapers, which they insisted was a “conspiracy” against President Zardari’s rule.
As one of Pakistan’s largest private news organizations, Jang Media Group has run afoul of ruling parties regularly, and this is the third time Geo News has been banned in less than three years. In late 2007 Gen. Pervez Musharraf banned Geo during his last “state of emergency,” and President Zardari banned Geo in March 2009 for its criticism of his crackdowns against opposition leaders during the “Long March.”
The US Ambassador to Pakistan has also taken the occasional shot at Jang, including claiming in September that the group was “endangering Americans” for a story which cited a German media report of Blackwater forces operating in Peshawar. The US admitted the report was true in January.