Three TV channels off air for hours -Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Paksitan Press Foundtion

Three TV channels off air for hours

Three TV channels off air for hours

KARACHI, May 5: Three television news channels went off the air on Saturday afternoon, depriving viewers in Karachi and southern Sindh of the live coverage of the caravan of Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry proceeding to Lahore from Islamabad.

The transmission of the channels – Geo, ARY and Aaj – was suspended in Karachi, Hyderabad and Nawabshah at about 5:30pm. In a few areas of Karachi, the channels could be watched after about two hours.

People called newspaper offices to inquire about the disruption and most of them blamed the government.

Officials of the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) denied any instructions had been issued to stop the transmission of the channels.

They said that these channels were not seen only in southern parts of Sindh, and if Pemra had issued any instructions the transmission would have been blocked all over the country.

According to APP, Pemra Chairman Iftikhar Rashid denied any involvement of the regulatory authority or any department of the government in the reported termination of transmission in some parts of Sindh.

Some cable operators claimed that a technical problem in their system had affected the transmission of the three channels in Karachi, Hyderabad and Nawabshah. “Efforts are being made to remove the problem,” All Pakistan Cable Operators’ Association vice-chairman Khalid Arain said.

However, some people accused a political party in the ruling coalition of having forced cable operators to stop transmission of the channels.

In a related development, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement denied having played any role in the blocking of the transmission.

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, Karachi Union of Journalists and Association of TV Journalists have criticised actions taken by the government against private TV channels and harassment of cable operators.

Dawn

PBA slams blackout of TV channels

KARACHI: Private television channels, including Geo News, remained off-air for several hours on Saturday in most parts of the metropolis and elsewhere in the interior of Sindh, including Hyderabad, Sukkur and Nawabshah.

Scores of phone calls were received from different areas about the unavailability of the Geo News broadcast. Besides, the telecast of Aaj TV and ARYONE World were also shut down. The transmission of Geo and other TV channels were suspended around 5pm.

Rumours were rife that the Muttahida Qaumi Movement bade the cable operators to shut down the telecast. The cable operators were allegedly asked to keep the telecast off-air until the end of the chief justice’s rally.

According to a press release issued by the Pakistan Broadcasters’ Association (PBA), the representative body of private TV and radio channels, a Muttahida Qaumi Movement press release states that they have always promoted press freedom. However, they feel that while the coverage of the chief justice’s procession from Islamabad to Lahore was aired throughout the day, the coverage of the Muttahida Legal Aid’s rally was not aired at all. The Muttahida pointed out that their rally was attended by thousands of people, which was 10 times more than the support and turnout in Jhelum and Gujrat for the chief justice.

The Muttahida claims that the blackout of private TV channels was not by them, but the result of anger from the people due to the ‘dishonest’ coverage by the TV channels.

The PBA strongly denies any biased reporting or coverage took place. The members of the Association are always open to feedback of its stakeholders, especially the public it serves, as well as other stakeholders such as political parties. In fact, archives that have been recently checked reveal that coverage did take place of the Muttahida rally and press conference. However, news worthiness of any event and issue is at the discretion of the individual broadcasters and journalists and should not be dictated by anyone. The TV channels have in fact received thousands of inquiries by viewers on why they are being denied access to important and critical information and no feedback on any dissatisfaction on the so-called biased coverage that Muttahida has referred to.

Further, the PBA does not understand the Muttahida’s claim that the people are behind the channels blackout.

In the current situation neither journalists nor broadcasters nor any businesses dare go against the will of the people.

All the channels are reflecting this will. Further testament to lack of bias can be the similarly of coverage by all channels.

The PBA is also surprised why the people are being blamed by the Muttahida when there has been no public outburst or agitation and yet a systematic move was clearly evident in areas of the blackout: Karachi, Hyderabad, Sukkur, Nawabshah, and Mirpurkhas — all Muttahida-dominated areas.

The PBA recalled that this is not the first time that cable operators have been forced to off-air channels in Pakistan, with the regulatory body Pemra, conveniently standing on the sidelines helplessly and passing the responsibilities for such blatant action on others.

This government has been known for its proactive and progressive approach towards media freedom and Pakistan has witnessed unprecedented and healthy growth in this industry. However, recently the government has shown signs of nervousness and has reacted strongly to any adverse and critical reportage.

The PBA requests the government and political parties to show restraint and tolerance and resort to feedback instead of actions, which may reverse the positive trend. PBA also requests viewers and other stakeholders to show their dissatisfaction, if at all, at any coverage, by giving feedback/advice or by changing the channel. Changing the channel instead to taking it off air is a more democratic method, which doesn’t infringe on the rights of other viewers and the channels themselves.

The PBA warns that the current blackout action is part of a very dangerous trend and, if condoned, such tactics might be adopted by other parties and forces.

Earlier, Member Muttahida’s Rabita Committee Mustafa Azizabadi said the party has nothing to do with the closure of the private TV channels. In a statement issued here from London, he said the closure of channels was a result of people’s reaction to “journalistic dishonesty”.

He stated that some TV channels were giving live coverage to the procession of the chief justice while the huge rally outside the Karachi Press Club was not given coverage. Azizabadi claimed that the TV channels should respect the emotions of the masses and added that the Muttahida believes in press freedom.

Separately, Chairman Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) Iftikhar Rashid categorically denied any involvement of the authority or any department of the government in the reported termination of certain private TV channels’ transmission in some parts of Sindh.

“Pemra is neither involved nor it has any information about the involvement of anyone,” he said.

The information secretary PPP Sindh condemned the closure of Geo and other TV channels and said the government was trying to sabotage the warm welcome being accorded to the CJP in Lahore.

Deputy chief of the Jamaat-e-Islami Prof Ghafoor Ahmed, while expressing grave concern over the closure of Geo transmission, termed it an attack on the freedom of the press. He said the enlightened moderate rulers were afraid of the media that was trying to present the true picture of the arbitrary regime to the people.

The Media Cell of Bilawal House strongly condemned the government for forcibly closing the transmission of Geo, ARYONE World and other TV channels. Terming the act an attack on the freedom of the press, a spokesman for Bilawal House Media Cell stated that the rulers, in fact, were worried over the warm welcome accorded to the CJP in Punjab. He said the rulers lost their patience when they saw that the PPP and other democratic parties and lawyers accorded historical welcome to the CJP.

The spokesman said the Geo and other television channels had been providing live coverage and information to the people about the rousing welcome to the CJP but the regime imposed ban on these channels just to deprive the nation from viewing the warm welcome accorded to the CJP. This act has exposed the mentality of the regime regarding democracy and the freedom of the press.
The News
Source: Dawn/ The News
Date:5/6/2007