ISLAMABAD – Coverage of Pakistan’s former Prime Minister Imran Khan has disappeared from all mainstream news outlets in the country after the media regulator last month asked networks to block people involved in riots, a Reuters investigation found on Monday .
A directive, seen by Reuters, was released by the regulator last week that refers to violent protests in Pakistan last month following Khan’s brief arrest that saw military installations looted, allegedly by supporters of the former prime minister.
The Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) asked television licensees to ensure that “hate mongers, rioters, their facilitators and perpetrators” are “completely shielded from the media”. It did not refer directly to Khan.
However, coverage of the former prime minister – Pakistan’s most popular leader according to polls – has faded to the point where his name and image are not aired. His mention has also disappeared from news websites.
PEMRA officials did not respond to multiple requests for comment and questions about whether the guidelines related to Khan and whether the directive was intended to be a blanket ban.
Khan has long been the most televised politician in Pakistan, with his speeches and rallies broadcast wall to wall and drawing large viewers.
The ban comes amid a wider crackdown on Khan and his party, which has seen dozens of his party members and thousands of his supporters arrested, which he says is being done by the country’s powerful military.
The military did not respond to a request for comment on Khan’s claim. It has previously denied orchestrating his impeachment in a parliamentary vote last year.
Khan himself was arrested on bribery charges, but was released two days later after courts found the manner of his detention illegal. He remains free on bail but faces dozens of cases.
In an interview, Khan said the violent incidents were used as a “pretext” for a “blanket ban” on him and his party.