Transmission of two leading TV news channels blocked and copies of newspapers burnt over critical coverage of European visit of Pakistan’s President Asif Ali Zardari
The transmissions of Pakistan’s two leading private TV news channels “Geo TV” and “ARY News” were blocked and the copies of newspapers, “The News” and “Daily Jang” were burnt in Karachi and some other parts of Sindh province, allegedly by activists of the ruling Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) on Sunday, August 8, 2010. This anti media action of the ruling party workers was reported to be in reaction to the airing and printing of news regarding hurling of shoes at Pakistan Peoples Party Co-Chairman and President of Pakistan, Asif Ali Zardari during his address in Birmingham on Saturday.
According to reports published in “The News”, offices of two cable operators “Giya cable” and “Show Time TV cable” in Karachi were also set ablaze by angry activists of the PPP as they refused to shut down transmissions of the two TV channels.
On Sunday morning, as hawkers were distributing newspapers, armed party activists snatched copies of the leading Urdu daily “Jang” and its English language sister publication, “The News” and burnt them in bon fire in various parts of the city. These newspapers are part of the same media group that owns “Geo” television network.
The cable operators said the PPP workers, backed by contingents of police, forced their entry into their offices compelling to shut down transmissions of Geo TV and ARY News. Two cable operators in Karachi “World Call” and “Media Plus Communication (MPC)” blocked the transmission at 2am early on Sunday morning.
The ARY News, reported the shut down on its website, said it has decided to challenge the government step in Supreme Court. Dr. Shahid Masood, President of ARY Digital Network, has said that they have no trust in any state institution and therefore have decided to approach the judiciary. He appealed to Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry to take notice of the closure of the transmissions and attack on cable operators.
The transmission of news channels remained blocked on Monday in major cities of Sindh province including Karachi, Hyderabad, Nawabshah, Sukkur and other cities.
Muhammad Anwar Shaikh, Nawabshah based reporter of Geo TV said that the copies of “The News” and the “Jang“ could not reach Nawabshah, and other cities and towns of Sindh because unidentified armed persons set newspaper bundles on fire. He said newspaper hawkers waiting for copies of the dailies held a protest demonstration in Nawabshah chanting slogans against the ruling party. Journalists also staged a protest demonstration in front of the Nawabshah Press Club strongly condemning burning of newspapers.
Muhammad Imran, a cable operator of “Reno Cable Network” Karachi told PPF that office of cable were attacked by armed activists of PPP during which personnel of cable operators were beaten. They said they had no choice but to block the transmission of Geo TV and ARY News.
Various press clubs in Pakistan including Karachi, Peshawar, Mardan, Chakwal, Bahawalpur and other cities held emergency meetings to discuss the action of the ruling party. The Punjab Union of Journalists (PUJ) and the Lahore Press Club (LPC) on Sunday announced that a protest demonstration would be staged on Monday against the anti media steps of the ruling party. The Association of Television Journalists and Pakistan News Agencies Council (PNAC) also strongly condemned the blocking TV channels and torching of the copies of the dailies.
The Jang Group management tried to file a criminal complaint against the burning of copies of newspapers but the police refused to register the complaint.
Pakistan’s major political parties, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) and the Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) have strongly condemned the burning of copies of newspapers and blocking the transmissions of news channels. They demanded immediate restoration of the TV channel and punishment to culprits.
PPP Sindh chapter General Secretary Taj Haider condemned anti media attacks but claimed that the ruling PPP had nothing to do with the incidents. He said the PPP had never exhibited negative policy against the media. He rejected allegations levelled against the party workers.
Source: Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)