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Three television news channels suspended for six hours in Sindh province

(PPF/IFEX) - Cable networks in major cities of Pakistan's southern Sindh province suspended the transmissions of three leading television news channels for six hours on 5 May 2007. The transmissions of Geo, ARY and Aaj television networks were suspended in Karachi, Hyderabad, Nawabshah, Sukkur and Mirpurkhas.

Despite its denials, it is widely believed that transmissions were suspended at the behest of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), the ruling party in the province of Sindh.

Although denying that transmissions were blocked on their directives, a statement issued by Mustafa Azizabadi, a leader of MQM, said the suspension was a result of people's reaction to "journalistic dishonesty" by the television channels. He said some television channels were giving live coverage to the procession of the recently-suspended chief justice, while the MQM rally was not covered. Azizabadi said television channels should respect the sentiments of the people and should perform their duties with honesty.

The Pakistan Broadcasting Association (PBA) strongly denied the charge of biased reporting and stressed that the newsworthiness of an event or issue was at the discretion of the individual broadcaster or journalist and could not be dictated by anyone else.

The Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) denied the involvement of any department of the government in the suspension of the transmissions. The PBA criticised PEMRA for not taking any action against such blatant violations of press freedom and said this was not the first time that cable operators had been forced to suspend transmission of television channels.

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