The Listening Post

Geo goes dark: Media and the military in Pakistan

Media mystery in Pakistan: who ordered Geo News off the air? Plus, covering the world’s largest biometric database.

On The Listening Post this week: Media mystery in Pakistan – who ordered Geo News off the air and why? Plus, the challenges of covering the world’s largest biometric database.

Why did Pakistan’s Geo TV go dark?

Pakistan’s most-watched broadcast network Geo TV has been off the air for more than a month across much of the country and no one in a position of authority is saying why.

Government ministers and the broadcasting regulator have denied any involvement and the cable companies that pulled the plug on Geo are staying silent. As is the Pakistani military, which has butted heads with Geo before and is suspected by numerous political and media observers as having ordered the blackout.

With no explanation offered, former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on trial for corruption, and elections coming – it would seem that Geo’s dominance of the media landscape has once again put it on a collision course with the military. 

Hamid Mir, senior anchor, Geo News
Marvi Sirme, journalist, Daily Times
Asad Baig, executive director, Media Matters for Pakistan
Ayesha Siddiqa, research associate, SOAS University and author of Military Inc.

On our radar

Richard Gizbert speaks to producer Johanna Hoes about the shooting of Palestinian journalists by the Israeli army while covering protests at the border, and the crackdown on dissenting voices in Azerbaijan in the run-up to the election.

India’s ‘Aadhaar’ database and the challenges of reporting it

In India, there is a debate taking place over a nationwide identity programme that is run by the government.

It’s called Aadhaar and is the world’s largest biometric ID system, with more than 1.2 billion Indians already signed up.

Aadhaar has been dogged by legal challenges, questions over privacy and identity theft, which the media are investigating.

But the government body in charge of it – the Unique Identification Authority of India – is sticking to its line that the service is secure and is trying to fend off journalists asking legitimate questions with legal threats, police complaints and even cutting off their access.

Rachna Khaira, reporter, The Tribune
Zoheb Hossain, lawyer for UIDAI
Nikhil Pahwa, founder and editor, MediaNama
Srinivas Kodali, cyber security specialist