Pakistan’s biggest news channels shut down

ISLAMABAD, Nov 17, 2007 (AFP) – Two leading private Pakistani television news channels broadcasting out of Dubai have been shut down amid pressure from military ruler Pervez Musharraf, the networks said Saturday.

Geo and ARYOne had been blacked out on cable here since November 3, when Musharraf imposed a state of emergency, but had still been available on satellite and the Internet until Friday night when they were fully closed.

Both channels said the government had been pushing them to stop showing their political talkshows.

‘We have been asked to shut down our transmission from Friday midnight,’ Kamran Khan, a senior official at Geo who hosts a popular talk show on the channel, told AFP.

After the shutdown, Geo showed a continous animated loop of its blue and orange logo, inscribed with the motto ‘Live and Let Live.’

At first resting on a tranquil sea, the logo is then shown being battered in an intense storm. The words flash up ‘Please inform them.’

Hamid Mir, another senior journalist at Geo, told AFP that the network’s employees would now hold protests, adding: ‘We will continue to protest until all of us are arrested.’

‘We were told at 9.30pm in Dubai that our transmission uplink would be shut down, as soon as we finished my talk show ‘Capital Talk’ in which we were discussing police maltreating Imran Khan’s sister during a protest,’ he said.

Mir said the closure came after Musharraf spoke to Dubai’s ruler to ask for the channels to be taken off air. The claim could not be immediately verified.

Imran Khan, a former cricket legend and a leading opposition figure, is currently detained by government and charged under the anti-terrorism act for opposing emergency rule.

Mir said the channel was receiving solidarity calls from the media around the world. ‘We are very thankful for it,’ he added.

Mohsin Raza, news director of ARYOne, said it was shut down in a similar manner.

‘We condemn it. Is this a joke with people or what?’ Raza told AFP.

‘This is being done just before elections so that people should be kept in the dark and far away from the truth,’ he added.

Pakistan’s electronic media regulator allowed international news channels BBC and CNN and two local stations, Aaj and Dawn, back onto screens Thursday.

Under emergency rule, the media are barred from publishing or broadcasting material that defames Musharraf, the armed forces or the government.

The order says there is a maximum punishment of three years in prison or a fine of 10 million rupees (166,700 dollars) for anyone who breaches the code.

Pakistani authorities Tuesday effectively banned the import of satellite television equipment, placing a further curb on coverage of the crisis.

Source: Arab Times

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Posted in Civil liberties and human rights, Freedom of speech, History, Legal, Media, Military, Pakistan, Police, Reports/Studies/Books, Suspect Legislation

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