IFJ Welcomes Musharraf Offer to Discuss Media Crisis as Banned Pakistan TV Goes Back on Air

The International Federation of Journalists has welcomed the willingness of President Pervez Musharraf to meet to discuss the situation of media in the country where journalists and media organisations continue to protest over draconian laws, backdoor coercive tactics, and use of security threats to intimidate media.

The IFJ General Secretary Aidan White met with the President during his visit to Brussels today and called for a new dialogue with media following the launch of the report Emergency in Pakistan, which provides details of how media have been affected by political turbulence in the country over the past three months.

Musharraf strongly denied that media were under pressure, pointing to examples of robust criticism of the authorities, but he agreed to meet with White and the IFJ, which is planning a new visit to Pakistan to discuss these issues further.

“The President is kidding no-one by dismissing his media critics,” said White. “He knows that without press freedom there is no hope for democracy in Pakistan and we are pleased that he is ready to meet over the questions that are being raised.”

The IFJ also joined the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) in welcoming the resumption of broadcasts of Geo News today on the order of the President, after a forced closure of 78 days. The Union has claimed the channel was closed on government orders.

The PFUJ, supported by the IFJ, backed thousands of members of the Geo staff and management in fighting the closure. It is anxious to confirm that resumption of Geo broadcasts is not linked to any compromise of editorial independence. The Union says other channels that are now back on the air after being suspended have accepted restraints and self-censorship and sidelined some senior broadcasters.

“Geo's resumption marks the successful culmination of only one phase of the struggle for freedom of the print and electronic media in Pakistan,” said the Union today. It claims cable operators impose censorship of media content, including limits on live coverage of political events and talk shows, which is stifling coverage of the country’s election campaign in advance of next month’s vote.

“We believe that only a free media and independent judiciary can ensure free, fair and transparent elections,” said the Union. The IFJ Report, following a mission to the country in November, is calling for the lifting of new rules that regulate media and the imposition of a code of conduct on journalists.

For more information contact the IFJ at + 32 2 235 2207

The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 120 countries worldwide