Geo TV ‘threatened’ over blasphemy

May 21, 2014 - 12:00:00 am

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s biggest television station said it was ramping up security yesterday after it became the object of dozens of blasphemy accusations for playing a song during an interview with an actress.

“Geo Television is scrubbing logos off its vans and limiting staff movements after receiving scores of threats over allegedly blasphemous content,” said channel president Imran Aslam.

“This is a well-orchestrated campaign,” he said. “This could lead to mob violence.”

The accusations pit Pakistan’s most popular private television channel against increasingly vocal religious conservatives, just as the station was emerging from a bruising battle with the country’s spy agency.

Blasphemy carries the death penalty in Pakistan but is not defined by law; anyone who says their religious feelings have been hurt for any reason can file a case.

Scores of people accused of blasphemy have been lynched by mobs and Aslam said despite broadcasting apologies, the station had received threats to kill journalists and their families.

The accusations follow Geo’s high-profile tussle with Pakistan’s powerful spy agency, whom it accused of shooting one of its most popular anchors last month.

The station did not support its accusations with evidence and later backpedaled. 

But a national poster campaign was launched proclaiming support for the military and denouncing the station. Cable operators pulled Geo from their content.

That controversy had barely died down when Geo was engulfed by a flood of blasphemy accusations over a show it carried last week.

The cases allege a traditional song was sung about the marriage of Prophet Muhammad’s [PBUH] daughter at the same time a pair of shoes was raised.

Both elements are traditional in a wedding ceremony but the timing was insulting to Islam, dozens of petitioners have alleged. Others allege the song itself was insulting.

On Monday, Islamabad High Court accepted a petition brought by a lawyer representing a group of clerics affiliated with the radical Red Mosque in the capital.

Advocate Tariq Asad said his suit named the singers and writers of the song, cable operators, television regulators, a national council of clerics and ARY, a rival television station.

ARY repeatedly broadcast clips of the morning show, alleging it was blasphemous, an action that Asad said was blasphemous in itself.