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