Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Pakistan’s Emergency Rule Lifted, But GEO TV Still Banned

Published on Monday, December 17, 2007 by CommonDreams.org

by Medea Benjamin

With only three weeks left until elections on January 8, Pakistan’s President Musharraf is trying to set the stage for free and fair elections by lifting the Emergency Rule he had imposed on November 3. While declared in the name of the war on terror, the 42-day Emergency Rule was used to eviscerate the judiciary by sacking independent judges and replacing them with Musharraf supporters. It was also used to crack down on the press, a press that had become one of the few checks on the military government. It’s hard to consider the upcoming elections as legitimate when two key democratic institutions-the judiciary and the press-have been destroyed.

In the crackdown on the press, Musharraf did not go after the print media, since just a small fraction of Pakistanis read newspapers. Instead he targeted TV and radio stations, closing them down, beating journalists, seizing equipment. To return to the air, the stations had to sign a code of conduct promising not to broadcast anything that “defames or brings into ridicule the head of state or the military.” Most of the stations signed this under duress and resumed broadcasting, but journalists all over the country continue to protest the restrictions and the nation’s Press Clubs have become centers of anti-Musharraf activities.

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