The prison sentence for blasphemy handed down today by a court in Pakistan against four people including the owner of a major private TV channel and one of its star actresses will have a chilling effect on freedom of expression and the media, Amnesty International said. The organization also noted serious concerns about the fairness of the trial.
An anti-terrorism court (ATC) today sentenced in absentia Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman, owner of Geo TV and its parent Jang Media Group, actress Veena Malik, her husband Asad Bashir and TV host Shaista Wahidi, to 26 years in prison each for airing a “contemptuous” program. Geo TV has a tense relationship with Pakistani authorities and was earlier this year temporarily taken off air following the blasphemy allegation.
“This sentence will have a chilling effect on freedom of expression in Pakistan. It is appalling that someone should be sent to prison for decades over a TV program. Today’s judgment shows how Pakistan’s deeply flawed blasphemy laws have become another tool to silence media,” said David Griffiths, Amnesty International’s Deputy Asia Pacific Director.