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Transmission of four news channels blocked during Taliban attack in Rawalpindi

(PPF/IFEX) - The transmissions of Pakistan's four television news channels, Geo News, Samaa, Express News and ARY News, were blocked for a few hours by the government authorities in Islamabad, Lahore and Karachi on 10 October 2009, during the Taliban attack on GHQ (Army General Headquarters) Rawalpindi. The channels were, however, reopened within a few hours.

The transmission of Geo News was blocked for six hours in several cities. Muhammad Siraj, assignment editor for Samaa, told PPF that the transmission was suspended in Islamabad, Lahore and Karachi. The news coordinator of Express News said that their transmission was suspended only in Islamabad for a short time.

The closure of TV channels started in the afternoon of 10 October, under the pretext that they were showing live clips of the GHQ attack repeatedly. Geo TV said that its coverage was according to the rules and regulations of the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) and if there was any objection, proper legal action should be taken instead of opting for the arbitrary closure of the TV channels.

News reports said the action was taken by the authorities allegedly for "objectionable" coverage of the GHQ terrorist attack. However Director General, Inter Services Public Relations (DG-ISPR) Major General Athar Abbas told media that the armed forces had no objection to the coverage.

PEMRA clarified in a press release issued on 11 October that Minister for Information and Broadcasting Qamar Zaman Kaira had not given any instructions for shutting down any satellite TV channel.

Meanwhile, a spokesman for the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting also contradicted reports appearing in a section of the press, alleging that the minister had directed PEMRA to off-air some channels on 10 October.

Acting President of the Council of Pakistan Editors (CPNE) Zahid Malik said the suspension of TV channels by functionaries of the government was an attempt to scuttle the voice of free media that would be fiercely resisted.

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