Islamabad: The Pakistan government's media regulator has issued notices to four TV news channels, including Geo News and Dawn News, for "being irresponsible" and "provoking anti-national sentiments" among viewers.
The Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) accused Geo News, Dawn News, News 1 and Dunya News of going "overboard in maligning the role of security agencies, armed forces and state institutions".
Some talk shows and programmes on the four channels had violated the regulator's ordinance, rules and code of conduct, PEMRA said in a statement.
Though it did not cite specific violations by most of the channels, the statement made it clear that they were related to coverage of the terrorist attack on the PNS Mehran naval airbase in Karachi on May 22.
A group of heavily armed Taliban fighters killed 10 security personnel and destroyed two US-made surveillance aircraft during the raid.
In the aftermath of the terror attack, "it was being observed that some news channels were not realising their journalistic responsibility and ethics towards society, institutions and country", PEMRA said.
It contended that Geo News televised the interview of "an alleged eyewitness of PNS Mehran attack and created undue sensation and hype without even bothering to verify the facts and realising the grave repercussions that such irresponsible journalism could have on the country", the statement said.
The "eyewitness later proved fake," it added.
"No responsible media anywhere in the world undermines the repute, respect sovereignty or integrity of its nation, institutions or its forces or (casts) aspersions against them," the statement said.
PEMRA claimed the Pakistani media had "been given enormous freedom of expression and speech but there must be some line drawn between desirable and undesirable by media (on) their own. Media in Pakistan today has to understand their responsibility before it is too late."
The powerful military, already reeling from criticism of its failure to detect the US raid that killed Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in the garrison city of Abbottabad on May 2, was further embarrassed by the terrorist assault on the naval airbase.