PAKISTAN: Transmission of two TV channels blocked
Cable operators threaten to shut down TV stations that broadcast 'anti-state' programs
Friday, June 1, 2007
Lahore --- Two TV channels went off air in different parts of the country on Sunday night.
The switch-off in case of Geo TV, according to its website, was almost countrywide while Aaj TV blackout was in Lahore and Islamabad.
"The government has blocked the transmission of the Geo News TV channel across the country due to reasons best known to them," said the portal of the Jang Group of Newspapers.
It said that calls from viewers flooded Geo offices to know why the transmission had suddenly been suspended when "Meray Mutabiq" programme was on air.
Aaj TV offices in Lahore were not aware which programme had offended the authorities.
"We have only carried the report of Geo blackout in our bulletin which might have annoyed the government media managers," said an Aaj representative.
Earlier, local cable operators addressed a press conference here on Sunday and said TV channels airing "anti-state programmes" would be switched off.
PPP condemns restrictions on TV channels
Islamabad --- Pakistan Peoples Party has condemned the restrictions on the electronic media, which hinder them from broadcasting live coverage to the Chief Justice as "a blatant attack on the freedom of expression" and termed it "a shameful (act of) intolerance of dissent by a regime that is frightful of the ugly face of (the) truth."
In a statement here on Sunday, spokesperson of the party, former Senator Farhatullah Babar said the ban on live broadcasts was "malafide and illegal" and against the provisions of the law regulating private broadcasting.
Under article 26 of the Pemra law, coercive action can be taken only on the recommendations of the Council of Complaints to which any aggrieved party may complain "against any aspect of the programmes." The law does not permit the government to unilaterally ban live broadcasts, he said.
If the regime had any complaints against the live coverage it should have complained to the Council and waited for its recommendations, he said.
Senator Farhatullah Babar said aspersions on the military were cast not by the people but by those who had dragged it into politics and used it to subdue the state's institutions for perpetuating themselves in power. "When the army chief and the heads of intelligence agencies dressed in military regalia try to force the CJ to resign it is they who are throwing (a) dim light on the military and no one else."
Dictators in the past have always tried to suppress the truth behind "national security" and "anti-state and anti-nation," he said. Even parliamentary questions about whether military officers submitted their annual declarations of assets have been rejected on the grounds of "national security," he asserted.
"Books may be burnt but (the) truth cannot be stifled. Individuals may be sent to jails but ideas can't be imprisoned. Negative images and ideas, if any, can be countered only through more powerful ideas and not by banning channels from showing the images."
The prescription of "self regulation, self correction and sense of responsibility" applies more to the regime than to the media, he said.
Channels barred from airing shows on CJ issue
By Amir Wasim
Islamabad --- Enraged by media coverage of the ongoing judicial crisis, the government on Saturday stopped satellite TV channels from telecasting programmes, including live talk shows and discussions, on the issue of the presidential reference against Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry.
The Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority sent a carefully-drafted letter to the managements of the private TV channels to inform them of the decision to ban TV coverage of the events related to the chief justice.
Interestingly, Pemra also issued a press release later in the afternoon regarding the award of licence to DawnNews TV in which it claimed that no ban had been imposed on live coverage of programmes.
The Pemra letter to the TV channels, a copy of which is available with Dawn, states: "No programme shall be aired which (i) is likely to encourage and incite violence or contains anything against maintenance of law and order or which promotes anti-national and anti-state attitude; (ii) contains anything which amounts to contempt of court; (iii) contains aspersions against the judiciary and integrity of the armed forces of Pakistan; (iv) maligns or slander any individual in person or certain groups, segments of social, public and moral life of the country; and is against basic cultural values, morality and good manner."
"You are, therefore, advised to refrain/desist from relaying programmes which deviate (from) Pemra laws and Code of Conduct. Non-implementation of the directives in this respect shall invoke legal action under Pemra Ordinance 2002 and rules/regulations made there under," says the letter carrying the signature of Pemra director-general (enforcement) Rana Altaf Majid.
In the letter, Pemra accuses TV channels of constantly violating the code of conduct. It "regrets" that some broadcasters are still engaged in showing "gruesome/gory scenes of mutilated bodies of tragic incidents of terrorism creating fear and unrest in the society which serves the purposes of the terrorists".
It says Pemra has always believed in self-regulation and self-correction. The authority, it says, expects maturity and a sense of responsibility from the broadcasters.
"In clear disregard of the orders of the Supreme Court of Pakistan and Pemra laws and code of conduct, the broadcasters are running live talk shows and discussions on the chief justice's reference which is sub judice."
With apparent reference to the live telecast of the addresses of the chief justice to various bars and with particular reference to the seminar of the Supreme Court Bar Association on May 26, the letter says: "In the recent past, some channels telecast live speeches which blatantly violated Pemra's code of conduct."
It is worth mentioning that several federal and state ministers have also been participating in the talk shows on the CJ issue, but the Pemra letter has no mention about participants of the programmes.
Govt should accept criticism, say broadcasters
Karachi --- The Pakistan Broadcasters Association (PBA) met on Saturday to review the recent restrictions imposed on television channels by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting.
Attended by representatives from Geo TV, ARY Digital, Aaj TV, Dawn News, KTN, TV One, Hum TV, Apna Channel and Dhoom TV, the meeting termed the move an attack on the constitutional right to freedom of expression, said a press release issued by the association.
The meeting's resolution said the government's commitment to a free media is currently undergoing a severe test, and the regime should be able to absorb criticism in the larger national interests, according to the handout. Putting curbs on objective news coverage amounted to denying the right to carry out professional duties in the public interest, it said, adding that the granting of selective and conditional freedoms can be a dangerous tool and the regulatory directives will deprive the public of their basic constitutional right of access to news.
The resolution said that the audience must learn to differentiate between right and wrong, because a void will allow the spread of destructive rumours.
The PBA said that while it has always respected the armed forces, the fact that the Chief of Army Staff is in government sometimes brings the institution under debate. Nevertheless, it has never been any PBA member's desire to bring the army into any disrepute, said the handout.
Despite having reservations about the Pemra rules and laws, the PBA has respected them and has always worked within the ambit of the Constitution. PBA has called for amendments in the Pemra rules and laws and will continue to work towards this end.
PPP slams new curbs on media
Islamabad --- The Pakistan People's Party (PPP) has condemned the government for imposing curbs on the media and termed the decision to stop live television coverage of events related to the judicial crisis an attempt to suppress the truth.
Talking to mediapersons at a function organised by the party's women wing in connection with the birthday celebrations of Benazir Bhutto here on Friday, PPP spokesman and former senator Farhatullah Khan Babar criticised Federal Minister for Information Mohammad Ali Durrani for using threatening tone against the media, saying it seemed that the rulers were totally confused over the present situation.
Paying tributes to Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry, Mr Babar said he had shown a great courage by refusing to resign on the directives of army generals. He said the chief justice's no to the generals had clearly drawn a battle line and now the people would have to decide once for all whether they wanted democracy or rule of a few generals in the country.
He said there was no writ of the government in any part of the country. He said the country was being run by small armed groups, which was evident from the fact that the government's writ had been challenged by Tehrik-i-Nifaz-i-Shariat Mohammadi in Swat, Taliban in Tank, nationalist elements in Balochistan and Lal Masjid and madressah students in Islamabad.
Speaking on the occasion, president of PPP women wing, Islamabad, Nargis Faiz Malik criticised the Muttahida Majlis-i- Amal (MMA) for strengthening the rule of Gen Musharraf by supporting the government in the passage of the 17th constitutional amendment.
A Reporter adds: Pakistan People's Party (PPP) will never abandon lawyers in their struggle for restoration of the chief justice (CJ), independence of judiciary and return of complete democracy in the country.
This was stated by PPP General Secretary Jehangir Badr while addressing the District Bar Association (DBA) here on Friday.
Fresh curb on media slammed
Lahore --- The Labour Party Pakistan on Friday demonstrated against what it called new restrictions on media, particularly electronic media, in the wake of directions given to the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) to regulate the transmission of different television channels.
LPP secretary-general Farooq Tariq, heading the demonstration outside the Lahore Press Club, demanded the restrictions should be withdrawn as they interfered with the right to freedom of expression guaranteed by the Constitution.
Speakers said on the occasion that the regime was systematically damaging the state institutions and muzzling the freedom of expression was the latest step in the direction.
They said Pemra had been instructed to enforce a discipline which was beyond its mandate.
A heavy contingent of police was present during the protest which terminated after about half an hour.
Meanwhile, the Lahore High Court Bar Association has also condemned the government effort to restrict the electronic media, in particular, which would not be able to present live coverage of anti-government rallies and other protest demonstrations.
LHCBA president Mohammad Ahsan Bhoon and secretary Sarfraz Ahmad Cheema said the objective behind the new restrictions was to prevent private television channels from covering lawyers' rallies. They also condemned the Sindh chief minister for making the assertion that the lawyers' campaign was being funded from outside the country. They said the allegation was baseless and the bar had the right to move against the chief minister for trying to bring the lawyers' democratic movement into disrepute.
Restrictions on electronic media slammed
Karachi --- The Pakistan People's Party has condemned the restrictions on electronic media. Speaking at a press conference here on Friday, Sindh PPP Information Secretary Nafees Ahmed Siddiqui said the decision seemed to be taken in the backdrop of the May 12 bloodbath when the electronic media exposed the gory details of the killing spree.
Defending the role of media, Mr Siddiqui said it had always played a positive role by highlighting different national issues including the cases of disappearances and the current judicial crisis.
He said the PPP would in no way accept the restrictions on live broadcasts in the electronic media as it would throttle the voice of dissent.
Flanked by PPP leaders Waqar Mehdi, MPA Rafiq Engineer and Saeed Ghani, he said people had made great sacrifices for the freedom of expression and they would fully protect it.
Mr Siddiqui said the country was passing through a crucial phase as the legal fraternity launched a struggle for the independence of judiciary after March 9.
He regretted that one pillar of the state had been controlling the other three pillars. But, he lauded the struggle being launched by lawyers and media to activate the civil society. As a result of this struggle, he said a great awareness among the people had been developed and they had now been aware of the problems, which were kept in dormant by the ruling elite for many years.
The PPP leader said his party believed in complete freedom of expression and in an independent judiciary because both were inter-linked. He demanded that all restrictions on the media should be lifted immediately.
Mr Siddiqui said his party was against putting restrictions on the freedom of any individual. He said, "Imran being a Pakistani has a right to move around any part of the country and we completely back his efforts against terrorism and in favour of democracy."
He reiterated that PPP Chairperson Benazir Bhutto would return to Pakistan after the announcement of election schedule and made it clear that his party would continue to support the struggle of lawyers for independence of judiciary.
Date Posted: 6/1/2007