New Pakistan government moves to abolish media checks


Islamabad : Pakistan’s new government Friday set the ball rolling to abolish media curbs imposed by President Pervez Musharraf when he declared emergency rule in the country in November.

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Hours after suspending the constitution, Musharraf, who was also then the army chief, amended the laws governing both print and electronic media, banning content that defamed or brought ridicule on him, the military and state agencies.

“A bill to repeal these amendments has been forwarded to a parliamentary committee that will vet it for transforming it into a law,” Information Minister Sherry Rehman told journalists in Islamabad after the bill’s introduction.

“We will remove the entire apparatus of restrictions imposed on the press,” said Rehman, who belongs to slain former premier Benazir Bhutto’s Pakistan People’s Party.

The widely criticised amendments also prohibited live coverage of violence and gory scenes and declared stricter penalties, both financial and administrative, for violations as determined by state watchdogs.

Rehman said the changes would allow the media not only to telecast events live but also air “all that they feel fit to broadcast”.

The minister, who herself is a former journalist, stressed that freedom with no official censorship would place a heavy responsibility on the media.

The Nov 3 amendments laid the ground for news blackouts amid judicial and political crises in Pakistan, and incidents of private television channels being taken off the air were aggressively protested by journalists and civil society.