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
“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
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
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
Kamal believed he was attacked
because of his journalistic activities, according to the PFUJ.
information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific
on +612 9333 0919
represents more than 600,000 journalists in 125 countries
IFJ on Twitter: @ifjasiapacific