Pakistan shuts private news channels


Islamabad : Authorities in Pakistan on Saturday temporarily suspended transmission of independent news TV channels to stop coverage of opposition rallies against President’s bid for re-elections, private TV channels and subscribers said.

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Police fired tear gas shells and beat protesting lawyers and political activists who staged demonstrations in Islamabad to protest against President Musharraf.

Protest rallies were planned outside the office of the Chief Election Commissioner, who held scrutiny of the nomination papers of President Musharraf and his rival candidates.

Major private TV channels were showing live pictures of injured lawyers with blood on their heads and faces.

Police severely beating and arresting senior lawyers and opposition activists and firing tear gas shells were also aired live on TV channels.

Only those people could watch TV channels who had facility of satellite dish receiver.

Three major TV channels Geo, ARY and Aaj TV said their transmissions went off the air in Islamabad, Rawalpindi and most parts of the country.

The state-run Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMA) had warned all TV channels not to air programs, talk shows and interviews in which comments are offered on courts matters.

I am not receiving cable since 11 a.m., Muhammad Wasim-ul-Haq, a resident of G-7-1 sector said.

A cable operator in G-8 sector said that the major cable provider Webcom disconnected the three major news channels.

It is not the first time the government has forced the cable TV providers to shut the news channels.

Such closures take place whenever any major developments happen in the country.

It is very unfortunate that the government, whenever it wants, deprive the public of information, Umair, a student in sector I-9 said.

I was off today from my college and was watching what was happening in Islamabad but I stopped receiving major news channels, he said.

The government has never been happy with the coverage of independent news channels and has always tried to block free access of information on very important occasions, a cable subscriber Waqas Banori in F-10 Markaz said.

Banori, a law college student, said the world has become a global village and getting information is not a problem but the government is worried of freedom of expression in today’s world.