Pakistan Tightens Restrictions on Information Access

New restrictions on the import of satellite dishes and antennae into Pakistan were imposed on Tuesday, said the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ), an affiliate of the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ).

“These further restrictions on access to information show the Government is no more interested in the free flow of information,” the PFUJ’s Secretary-General, Mazhar Abbas, said today.

Pakistan’s Ministry of Commerce declared on Tuesday that imports of such equipment would now require the approval of the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulation Authority (PEMRA). PEMRA is the agency responsible for administering the anti-media ordinances issued under the emergency decrees imposed by Pakistan’s President, Pervez Musharraf, on 3 November.

The restrictions come as sales in Pakistan of satellite dishes, radios and even batteries are reported to have skyrocketed in response to the Government’s attempts to restrict and censor media outlets.

“People in Pakistan have a right to know what is going on in their country and the Government is actively obstructing that right,” the IFJ’s Asia-Pacific Director, Jacqueline Park, said today.

Mainstream television and radio remain off air, as do international news services such as Al Jazeera, the BBC and CNN. However, Fox TV and Sky TV have resumed transmission.

The PFUJ, which is demanding that the ordinances be revoked, said media outlets were being pressured to sign a PEMRA code of conduct before resumption of transmission would be permitted. The code is an effort to generate disunity among media workers and outlets, the PFUJ said.

Outside media outlets across the country today, about 600 to 700 journalists are continuing their peaceful protests against the media clampdown, with the support of sympathetic employers.

They will receive extra support from their colleagues around the world for the Global Day of Action on Thursday 15 November. The IFJ and PFUJ have called on affiliates, friends and members of the regional and international media community to deliver letters of protest to Pakistan’s embassies and missions around the world. Governments will be asked to apply diplomatic pressure on Pakistan’s Government to rescind its emergency decrees.

For more information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +61 2 9333 0919

The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 120 countries