Watchdog urges Pakistan to free editor, restore TV on air

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ISLAMABAD — An international media watchdog on Thursday urged Pakistan to free a TV news director arrested the previous day over an anti-army broadcast and return the station on air.

The appeal by Paris-based Reporters Without Borders came a day after Pakistani police arrested Ammad Yousaf, a senior executive at the private ARY Television in the southern port city of Karachi. Pakistan’s media regulatory body also shuttered the station.

The arrest followed a Monday interview with Shahbaz Gill, of staff at Tehreek-e-Insaf opposition party of former prime minister Imran Khan. Khan, a famous cricket player turned Islamist politician, was ousted in a no-confidence vote in parliament in April.

In the broadcast, Gill urged Pakistani troops and officers, all the way up to brigadier generals, to refuse to obey “illegal orders” from the military — remarks that were seen by authorities as incitement to mutiny.

Police have also arrested Gill on treason charges for which he could face a death penalty.

Reporters Without Border condemned Yousaf’s arrest and the TV’s suspension, and accused the military of orchestrating them.

“The same crude censorship and harassment of journalists critical of the government keeps on recurring,” said Daniel Bastard, the head of the group’s Asia-Pacific desk,

ARY has distanced itself from Gill’s remarks, stressing that it is not part of any campaign against the army. Khan came to power in 2018, promising to break the pattern of family rule in Pakistan, but his opponents said he was elected with help from the powerful military, which has ruled the country for half of its 75-year history.

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