Countrywide protest against media curbs
“It is shocking to see a democratic government use the same censorship measures as Pervez Musharraf’s military government,” Reporters Without Borders said. “We urge the authorities in Islamabad to restore transmission of Geo News and Aaj TV without delay. Such crude censorship will no way help to resolve Pakistan’s political crisis.”
Our correspondent from Lahore adds: Meanwhile, hundreds of people belonging to Geo transmissions being restored by cable operators at people’s request
By Saadia Khalid
ISLAMABAD: Journalist bodies, including the PFUJ, RIUJ, PUJ, KHUJ and KUJ, civil society activists, political parties and people belonging to all walks of life held countrywide protests on Saturday against curbs on the media and closure of the Geo News and other TV channels.
Meanwhile, cable operators in different cities have started restoring the original position of the Geo News channel at their cable networks on the request of the people. They have also started airing the Geo transmission at places where they were closed earlier.
Earlier, a large number of people belonging to different walks of life, including media persons, under the banner of the RIUJ, members of civil society and students, staged a demonstration in front of the National Press Club in order to condemn the ban imposed on the TV channels.
The protesters slammed the ban, calling it a cowardly act and a hasty decision taken by the government.
They hailed the decision of Sherry Rehman, who tendered her resignation as minister for information and broadcasting after a cabinet meeting on Friday night, as the Geo TV channel was blocked in major cities of the country.
Addressing the demonstrators, speakers said the ban on the media was linked to the forthcoming long march, as the event was getting a comprehensive coverage from the local media.
Holding placards inscribed with anti-government slogans, the demonstrators vowed to continue their struggle till the freedom of press and judiciary.
They said there was no difference between a democratic government and a dictator’s regime, as the media and the lawyers were confronting the same problems and difficulties.
PML-N leader Makhdoom Javed Hashmi said if both the democratic government and the dictator were taking the same steps to curb the media, media persons were justified in distrusting the government.
“It is regrettable that such a shameful act to curb the media has been taken by a democratically-elected government,” he said.
Hashmi said the struggle of the media for the free and independent judiciary was no less than that of the lawyers, as both of them were fighting for the cause in their own ways.
“Our party appreciates the media for presenting the true picture before the masses through their bold reporting and analysis,” he said.
He said President Asif Ali Zardari had promised to restore the deposed judges when the PPP formed the coalition government with the PML-N, but he had been reluctant to fulfil his commitment.
He said the PPP’s non-serious attitude prompted the PML-N, the lawyers and ultimately the media to opt for the way of protests and march in order to get their rights.
Senator Zafar Ali Shah said that in the prevailing situation, all the four pillars of the State, including the media, were shaking.
“It is time when the government must take sensible steps in order to secure our country by strengthening its pillars,” he said.
He said the media had become so advance that each and every statement and act of political workers was on record and there were a few chances left for them to deny what they had said or promised.
Meanwhile, a large number of civil rights activists gathered in front of the Jinnah Super Market and chanted slogans for the reinstatement of the deposed judges and lifting of the ban imposed on the media.
Agencies add: Meanwhile, the journalists’ community staged a walkout from the session of the National Assembly against the ban on private TV channels, but ended their protest later after an assurance by Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Mehreen Anwar Raja and Parliamentary Information Secretary Azeem Daultana.
Mehreen Raja, after listening to the demands of journalists, said that the democratic government even could not think of imposing curbs on the media and if cable operators stopped the transmission themselves, the government would take notice.
Meanwhile, Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) expressing deep concern and condemning the highhandedness of cable operators in mishandling the news channels’ (Geo, Aaj, Royal and others) placement or stoppage on their respective cable networks throughout the country has asked the government to take stern action against the cable operators and correct the situation within next 48 hours.
Meanwhile, PFUJ has constituted a fact finding body to probe into this matter and submit its report within next 48 hours to ascertain the facts and fiction and then draw the future line of action after taking into account all these reports and talking to all stakeholders including the PBA, media owners and all the state/government functionaries.
The members of the fact finding body includes Zafar Abbas Resident Editor of Dawn for Federal Capital, Mohammad Riaz, President Khyber Union of Journalists for NWFP, Saleem Shahid, Senior Assistant Secretary PFUJ for Balochistan, Ahsan Zia, President Punjab Union of Journalists for Punjab, Javed Chaudhry, President Karachi Union of Journalists for Sindh.
Meanwhile, Reporters Without Borders has condemned the blocking off transmission of Geo News and Aaj TV in several major cities.
different walks of life condemned and chanted slogans against the government for blocking Geo News and other news channels.
People gathered at the Lahore Press Club (LPC) and termed the government move against the media a blatant attack on independence of the press.
Representatives of various media organisations, members of civil society, lawyers, activists and workers of various religious and political bodies like Khaksar Tehrik, Markazi Jamiat Ahle Hadith and Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI) attended the demonstration.
Members of the Punjab Union of Journalists (PUJ) and Pakistan Electronic Media Journalists Association (PEMJA) demanded the government immediately restore transmissions of Geo News and Royal News, and withdrawal of the PEMRA Ordinance.
They said the curbs on the media were violation of basic human rights as access to information was a basic right of every individual, adding that the act of the government had exposed its intentions against the media and the rulers were following policies of ex-president Pervez Musharraf.
The demonstrators with black armbands were carrying banners and placards inscribed with anti-government and anti-PEMRA slogans.
Source: The News