Pakistan: Blanket ban on critical speeches ‘disturbing demonstration’ of threat to freedom of expression

Responding to the ban on broadcasting speeches of ex-Prime Minister Imran Khan and suspension of transmission of private news network ARY TV in Pakistan by the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) on Sunday, Rehab Mahamoor, research assistant for South Asia at Amnesty International, said:

“The blanket ban on an opposition leader’s speeches and suspension of ARY News is a disturbing demonstration of how successive Pakistani authorities target critical voices and use the country’s media regulatory authority to threaten press freedom.

“Overbroad use of bans on news and media publications constitutes a violation of the right to freedom of expression. Criticism of state institutions cannot be considered hate speech as has been suggested by PEMRA. Any limitations on the right to freedom of expression must be on a case-to-case basis and deemed to be necessary and proportionate conforming to international human rights laws and standards.

“The right to freedom of expression is enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and protected in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) to which Pakistan is a signatory. The Pakistani authorities must withdraw any blanket bans and stop cracking down on journalists and media houses that publish content critical of the government.”


On the evening of 5 March 2023, Pakistan’s media regulator banned television channels from broadcasting speeches and news conferences by Imran Khan, accusing the former prime minister of attacking the state’s institutions and promoting hatred. It also suspended the licence of ARY News, a private news channel.

This is the third ban on broadcasting and rebroadcasting of the ex-Prime Minister’s speeches and press talks on all satellite TV channels since he was ousted from power.

Amnesty International has previously documented how successive governments use PEMRA to issue “politically motivated bans” against media houses whose political leanings do not align with that of the government.