Saturday, December 08, 2007

Coping with censorship in Pakistan

Source: Index for free expression


As President Musharraf announces that he will end Pakistan’s state of emergency on 16 December, Shirin B Sadeghi looks at how the media has responded to the crackdown

When President Pervez Musharraf declared a state of emergency on 3 November, one of the first casualties was the independent media.

Having shut down every broadcasting station but state run television, Musharraf’s government proceeded to raid the offices of independent news channels such as Geo News and Aaj television. Phone lines were cut, some stations reported jamming, and there were threats of long jail terms for broadcasters who would not comply. Hundreds of journalists were arrested. But two independent news channels continued to broadcast live. Geo News and ARY One World transmitted broadcasts from their bureaus in Dubai. The predictable surge in satellite dish purchases after the state of emergency was quickly followed by a government ban, but nonetheless Geo and ARY remained accessible within Pakistan.

Just over two weeks after emergency rule was announced, Musharraf’s government convinced the Emir of the United Arab Emirates to end transmission of Geo and ARY thus successfully silencing the last two independent news broadcasts in Pakistan. As Geo’s last few minutes on air came to a close, its sensational coverage of the shutdown included phone calls from members of the public, crying as they pleaded for the station – one of the most popular channels in Pakistan – to remain on air.

Continued . . .

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