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Transmission of leading television news channels blocked

(PPF/IFEX) - Transmission of three leading private television news channels has been intermittently blocked in many parts of Pakistan since 1 June 2007, apparently in an attempt by the government to control the media coverage of the crisis that has engulfed the country since President Pervez Musharraf suspended Supreme Court Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry and filed a judicial reference against him.

The transmission of Aaj TV and ARY TV television channels has been blocked intermittently since 1 June in Islamabad, Rawalpindi and a number of cities across the province of Punjab. Transmission of GEO TV's news channel was blocked across the country on 3 June while its popular current affairs programme "Meray Mutabiq" was being telecast. According to Geo TV, the channel had received telephone calls from authorities telling it not to telecast the programme. Aaj TV's transmissions were blocked again on 3 June after it carried a report on the Geo TV blackout in its news bulletin.

The television channels said they had not received any notification from the government regarding suspension of broadcasts. The Pakistan Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) denied it had ordered the suspension of transmission and claimed the cable operators had done so at their own discretion. However press reports said cable operators had suspended news channel broadcasts on the basis of verbal directives from PEMRA officials.

Journalists protested on 4 June in Islamabad against the blocking of the three private television news channels and against the introduction of amendments to PEMRA laws that give the government sweeping punitive powers, including the power to seize and seal the offices of broadcasters.

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