IFJ Urges Reopening of Blocked Television Broadcasts in Pakistan

The International Federation

of Journalists (IFJ) demands Pakistan’s

Government immediately restore broadcasts by GEO TV and ARY News, after the news

channels’ reports were blocked following the airing of news about a protester

throwing shoes at Pakistan’s

President Asif Ali Zardari.

 

The cable television channels were blocked on August 8, sparking

protests across the country. Both channels remained off air on August 9

 

The bans are affecting news coverage and information regarding the country’s relief

effort to deal with widespread disaster

caused by massive flooding.

 

“The IFJ reminds President Zardari of the promises he made upon taking

office that he would uphold and defend freedom of the press and information in Pakistan,”

IFJ General Secretary Aidan White

said.

 

“It is essential that at such an acutely sensitive time for Pakistan

that its Government and leaders promote full transparency and resist resorting to

the censoring tactics employed by military regimes of the past.”

 

The IFJ is further concerned that pressures on television operators

potentially threaten the jobs of hundreds of journalists and media workers in

the broadcast sector.

 

Aside from the broadcast blocks,

offices of GEO and ARY News cable operators in Karachi were reportedly set ablaze by

activists of the Pakistan Peoples’ Party (PPP), according to local news

reports.

 

Copies of the GEO-associated Jang and TheNews newspapers were

reportedly stolen from vendors and burned. Threats were issued that delivery

vans would be burned.

 

GEO’s website reported that some PPP

leaders and government officials had warned cable operators across the country

to cease transmission of GEO, but most refused to do so.

 

The incident in which shoes were hurled occurred as Zardari led a PPP rally in Birmingham on

August 7 during a visit to the United

Kingdom. Zardari’s European visit is

reportedly stirring anger among the Pakistani community abroad and at home as

the country contends with the continuing floods emergency.

 

Nationwide protests against the

broadcast ban are under way, including a rally today led by the Karachi Union of Journalists, an affiliate of the

Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ).

 

In March 2008, then President Elect Zardari

told an IFJ delegation that his new government would not have a hostile

relationship with media, as had occurred under the regime of former President

Pervez Musharraf.

 

However, in March 2009, Zardari ordered

a ban on telecasts by GEO and Aaj TV in regard to coverage of protesting

lawyers and opposition party opinions. The move prompted the resignation of

then Information Minister Sherry Rehman.

 

In a separate incident involving GEO

on August 7, two unidentified gunmen fired at a news team in Hyderabad, according to a PFUJ statement.

 

GEO reporter Anwar Kamal and his

driver Nasim Ahmed were hurt in the attack on their car near Thandi Sarak. The

pair continued driving to a hospital, and are reported to be recovering from

their injuries.

 

Kamal believed he was attacked

because of his journalistic activities, according to the PFUJ.

 

For further

information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific

on +612 9333 0919

 

The IFJ

represents more than 600,000 journalists in 125 countries

 

Find the

IFJ on Twitter: @ifjasiapacific