Bol News under fire for principled, ethical journalism

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Bol News under fire for principled, ethical journalism
Bol News under fire for principled, ethical journalism

Bol News under fire for principled, ethical journalism

The govt unleashes PEMRA against Bol News while exerting covert pressure on its management to sack some staff members

Pakistan’s most watched channel, Bol News, stands in the line of fire for its principled and ethical journalism and refusing to sack some of its leading anchorpersons, who have been giving fair coverage to former premier Imran Khan’s campaign against the controversial Shehbaz Sharif-led government.

From reporting on the cypher conspiracy as exposed by Imran Khan, to highlighting the gross human rights violations and the targeting of some leading politicians and journalists, Bol News has remained in the forefront to provide Pakistani viewers timely, factual and objective coverage of the country’s ongoing political crisis.

As a result, the government, led by the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), has unleashed PEMRA (Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority) against Bol News on the one hand, and exerted covert pressure on its management to sack some of the staff members on the other.

The clear objective of the government is to force the channel not only to tone down its coverage of the opposition, but also to become a part of the smear campaign against the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and its leadership. Pressure is being brought on the organisation to sack leading anchorperson and its Managing Director, Sami Ibrahim, and anchorperson Jameel Faruqi.


While cases were lodged against both these anchors, Faruqi was also arrested and subjected to physical torture, including stripping. But Bol News has refused to give in to pressure, and has stood by its team members. It has issued a public statement that the management will never abandon any of its team members on outside pressure.

PEMRA went out of the way to illegally block Bol News transmission on cables across Pakistan multiple times. Most of the times, the channel was pulled off the air completely across the country, and at other times it was a partial closure. PEMRA used its clout to force the cable operators to pull Bol News off air without any legal formality. Then it went all out and illegally cancelled the licenses of both Bol News and Bol Entertainment channels. But thanks to Pakistan’s independent judiciary, it failed to keep Bol News transmission suspended for long.

This victimization campaign did hurt Bol News in multiple ways, including creating a sense of uncertainty and fear among hundreds of its employees, who include some of the best hands of Pakistan’s media industry.

Apart from PEMRA, the authorities used covert pressure tactics. On several occasions the channel’s anchors were threatened, while unmarked vehicles carrying unidentified men repeatedly showed up outside Bol News offices in Karachi and Islamabad.

The pressure on Bol News mounted as other media outlets started to cave in one after the other in the face of government’s pressure to follow its propaganda line. But Bol News showed its character and commitment to principled journalism, and refused to yield to those threats and pressures.

The Bol Media Group stood by the journalist fraternity and dissenting voices all through this crisis. For example, when leading anchorperson, Imran Riaz Khan, was arrested and victimized, Bol News supported him all along. The channel he was working for closed the doors on him, but Bol News came forward and made him part of the Bol family despite all the warnings and pressure.


Similarly, when Siddique Jan – a dynamic and prominent young journalist – was being made part of Bol News, demands were received that the management should refrain from doing so. But Bol News management stood-by the journalist.

The biggest example is the Arshad Sharif case. Pakistan’s best-known investigative journalist, Arshad Sharif lost his job and was forced to leave the country after receiving serious threats. Under these testing times, Bol Media Group came forward and offered him a job, which he accepted. After signing the contract, Arshad Sharif planned to start appearing on the Bol News screen once the situation improved and he was able to return to Pakistan. But he was martyred in mysterious circumstances in a remote region of Kenya. Here again, Bol News gave minute-by-minute coverage to this gruesome murder and its aftermath, and stood by the victim’s family in its most distressing times.

And that’s not all. A couple of other journalists, on whom the doors of television screens were being shut due to government pressure, were provided screen time by Bol News. Prominent journalist Sabir Shakir is one such example. He was forced to leave Pakistan after receiving threats, but Bol News, defying all the pressure, gave him screen time on multiple occasions on its prime time shows.

Bol News faced all this pressure and witch-hunt only because it took a stand for Pakistan and its people. Its only crime was that it refused to bow down to the government pressure, and gave full coverage to Imran Khan; his series of public meetings, his ‘Haqiqi Azadi March’ as well as the cypher scandal. Bol News also did not join the pack of media houses that launched an organized propaganda campaign against Imran Khan. These media houses included a couple of familiar names, such as the Jang-Geo Group, that have a history of running smear campaigns against the Pakistan Army and other sensitive institutions.

A vast majority of Pakistanis wanted to follow news of Imran Khan’s activities minute by minute. And Bol News provided them with a chance to stay on top of the developments through its channel and digital media platforms. The failed assassination attempt on Imran Khan was one such mega-event which Bol News covered the way it should have been covered. As a result, not just in Pakistan, but wherever in the world the Pakistani diaspora is present, Bol News became the number-one Pakistani media brand, trusted and loved by the viewers.

When the Shehbaz government resorted to political victimization of some of the leading politicians, Bol News again made its mark with detailed coverage. The cases of Senator Azam Swati and Shahbaz Gill are the prime examples of this coverage. Where all the rest of the channels tried to ignore and undermine the gross human rights violations and torture of these politicians, Bol News kept their issue on the front-burner.


However, this is not the first time that the Bol Media Group is in the line of fire under a PML-N government. In 2015, Bol News had to face the biggest media crackdown in Pakistan’s history when its management was implicated in false cases. The PML-N government left no stone unturned to oblige its friendly media and foreign partners to stifle Bol Media Group. But against all odds, it was successful in launching its channels and the print media arms. As Bol Group is moving from strength to strength, the PML-N is again trying to gag it. But this has been the tradition of the PML-N that it tries to take on the independent media and dissenting voices every time it comes into power. However, history shows that on all those occasions, the PML-N failed in its designs to obliterate the critical media.

Bol News, in line with its stated policy, will continue to remain Pakistan’s independent media voice, and perform its role of providing timely, fair and objective news and information to its viewers. This is Bol News’ commitment to itself, its team members, all the Pakistanis and the country.


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