Transmission of TV news channels blocked in Pakistan
Transmission of Pakistan’s two television news channels, “Geo News” and “Aaj TV” was blocked on March 13, 2009 by cable operators in various parts of the country, apparently in compliance with verbal official instructions. Transmission was blocked in Karachi, Hyderabad, Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Lahore, Quetta, Multan, and a number of smaller cities all over Pakistan and Azad Kashmir.
According to reports published in “The News”, the newspaper that belongs to the same group as “Geo News”, transmission of these news channels was blocked on the direct order of the President of Pakistan Asif Ali Zardari. The orders, given by officials verbally, was an attempt by the government to prevent viewers from witnessing the protest rallies held throughout the country as part of the “Long March” called by lawyers and opposition political parties to demand restoration of the Chief Justice of Pakistan. The chief justice and other deposed judges were restored on March 16, as a result of the pressure mounted by the “Long March”.
Government representatives denied blocking the channels, but Shafiq Dogar, a cable operator of Sargodha said that a director of Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) ordered him by phone to stop transmission of “Geo News” and “Aaj TV”.
After being blocked for some time, cable operators were changed the positions of the targeted channels, in order to make it difficult for the viewers to locate the channels.
Geo News Managing Director Azhar Abbas said the government ordered cable operators to either stop the transmission of “Geo News” or move it to the tail-end of the transmission spectrum, making it difficult for viewers to locate the channel. The order, he said, was apparently in response to our live coverage of the Long March and related protest demonstrations which the government didn’t like.
In a related development, Federal Information Minister Sherry Rehman, herself a former editor, apparently disagreed with the government decision to put curbs on the media and resigned from her job in protest.
Media organizations, including the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ), All Pakistan Newspapers Society (APNS), Council of Pakistan Newspapers Editors (CPNE), Rawalpindi-Islamabad Union of Journalists (RIUJ), Punjab Union of Journalist (PUJ), Khyber Union of Journalists (KHUJ) and Karachi Union of Journalist (KUJ), Association of TV Journalists (ATJ), protested the punitive action against these TV channels. On March 14, journalists walked out of the National Assembly session to protesting against these actions.
Source: Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)