Karachi [Pakistan], August 11 (ANI): A Karachi court on Thursday acquitted the Pakistani television station ARY News head Ammad Yousaf, who was charged with sedition and arrested from his house in the early hours of Wednesday.
Senior Vice President of the outlet, Yousuf was produced before the Malir district Court today. He was brought in an armoured vehicle and was not allowed to meet his lawyers and family members, ARY News reported.
A day earlier, Yousuf's lawyer Naeem Qureshi requested the court to withdraw a First Information Report (FIR) against the head of ARY News. "We will apply for bail if the court does not withdraw the FIR," he said.
According to the lawyer, the FIR against Yousuf in Karachi is illegal. "The FIR registered in Memon Goth police station is against the court decisions," he added.
Yousaf while talking to the media after the decision said he was thankful to everyone who has supported ARY NEWS during the testing time.
On Wednesday, Yousuf was arrested after the channel, which is the country's biggest private broadcaster, was served a show-cause notice by the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) on Monday.
President and CEO of ARY Digital Network Salman Iqbal, Anchor persons, Arshad Sharif and Khawar Ghuman were also booked under sedition charges.
On the complaint of the Station House Officer (SHO), a First Information Report (FIR) has been registered at Karachi's Memon Goth police station. According to the channel, the FIR was registered just an hour before the arrest of ARY News head Ammad Yousaf.
The FIR has been registered under sections 120, 124A, 131, and 153A in which sedition and charges of plotting alleged conspiracy have been included.
ARY News said that its journalist was arrested by Karachi Police and a raiding team broke into his house from the main gate in the middle of the night. It has termed Yousaf's arrest as retaliation by the government against the channel and noted that police officers in plain clothes forcibly entered the journalist's house.
The journalists' bodies and press clubs termed the arrest of ARY News senior Vice President an act of victimization and said that journalists will call for a nationwide protest if Ammad Yousaf is not released immediately, ARY News reported.
Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) in its statement said that the government should come to its senses.
Meanwhile, the Sindh High Court on Wednesday ordered the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) to immediately restore the ARY News transmission across the country.
The Sindh High Court, in the 10-page order, suspended the show-cause notice issued to ARY News by PEMRA. The court also stopped the media regulatory authority from suspending the license of TV channels till the next hearing.
The court also issued notice to PEMRA and the deputy attorney general and adjourned the hearing until August 17, ARY News reported.
Soon it was revealed that PEMRA had ordered the suspension over a statement given by a Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) leader Shehbaz Gill among other reasons, the ARY News distanced itself from Gill's statement and issued a statement on the matter.
The statement added that comments or opinions of any individual televised by the network do not represent the channel's policy. Shahbaz Gill's statement was his personal opinion not ARY's editorial policy, it added.
Advocate Azhar Siddique along with PFUJ President Shahzad Butt, ARY NEWS reporter and members of civil society filed a petition before the Lahore registry of the apex court.
The petition stated that two FIRs were registered on a similar complaint in Islamabad and Karachi against the decision of the Supreme Court of Pakistan. It further said that the CEO of ARY NEWS and administration has also been booked in the case while head of news Ammad Yousaf was arrested in a similar case.
Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) on Monday issued a show-cause notice to ARY News for airing what it called was "false, hateful and seditious" content and describing it as a threat to national security, Dawn reported.
Prior to the issuance of the notice, ARY News went off air in many parts of the country on Monday evening.
ARY News' transmission was suspended in Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad, Sialkot, Hyderabad, Faisalabad and other cities.
As the news outlet shutdown continued, many leaders of Imran Khan's party Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) took to Twitter and registered their protests.
Regulatory watchdog PEMRA alleged that the channel was airing "false, hateful and seditious" content based on "absolute disinformation with a clear and present threat to national security by instigating rebellion within the armed forces", Dawn reported. In its notice to the news outlet, the regulatory watchdog also termed the news anchor who delivered the news as "biased."
The entire episode was perpetuated due to a news piece aired by the channel on how the ruling Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) has reportedly activated its strategic media cell to malign Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chairman and the country's former prime minister Imran Khan.
The PEMRA notice to ARY News alleged that PTI leader Shehbaz Gill had made "highly hateful and seditious" remarks tantamount to "incite armed forces towards revolt," Dawn reported.
Shortly after ARY News was taken off air, PTI leader and close aide of Imran Khan, Shahbaz Gill was arrested in Islamabad on Tuesday.
An Islamabad police spokesperson said that Gill has been taken into custody for inciting the public against the state institutions, Geo News reported.
PTI leader and former federal minister Fawad Chaudhry said that Gill was picked up from Banigala Chowk by unidentified personnel in cars with missing number plates. (ANI)