Pakistani journalists charged for violating rallies ban

By Xinhua

Islamabad : Pakistani police have registered a case against over 200 journalists who had rallied in the capital city against restrictions on electronic media, a representative of a journalist body said Tuesday.

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The Islamabad-based journalists were blamed for violating a ban on rallies, and were also charged for interfering in the government functioning, said Secretary General of Islamabad Press Club Afzal Butt.

The Pakistan government on Monday imposed fresh curbs on the electronic media sparking protests from journalists.

Authorities have been highly critical of the media in recent weeks over its coverage of judicial crisis and speeches from the erstwhile chief justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, whom the president suspended on March 9 on the charges of "misuse of authority".

Frequent street demonstrations, staged by lawyers and opposition groups criticising the chief justice's suspension, were mostly live broadcast by local major private TV channels since March.

The recently-amended media regulations empower, the electronic media regulator, Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra), to take action on its own against television channels which violated rules.

The ordinance authorises the Pemra to confiscate the equipment of broadcasters and seal the premises without consulting a council of complaints.

The amendment increased the fine for violators to Rs.10 million (about $166,666) from the existing one million rupees.

Soon after the promulgation of the ordinance, journalists on Monday took to streets in Islamabad and demonstrated outside the prime minister's secretariat.

Days ago, two private TV channels were prevented from live broadcasting after making alleged criticisms of the army and judiciary.