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GEO NEWS ON AIR AGAIN

Pakistani channel Geo News resumed satellite broadcasting from Dubai on 29 November, following "fruitful discussions" between the channel and U.A.E. authorities.

According to Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans frontières, RSF) and local news reports, the U.A.E. authorities gave the privately-owned TV station Geo News permission to resume broadcasting from Dubai after being forced off the air two weeks prior, allegedly because of pressure from Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf. Geo TV has been blacked out on cable in Pakistan since 3 November, when Musharraf imposed emergency rule and issued anti-media ordinances.

Viewers in Pakistan can watch the channel through satellite receivers, but they are a rare commodity since the government banned their importation, says RSF.

"They are trying to strangle us financially by all possible means," Geo TV president Imran Aslam told RSF in a letter. "We are losing half a million dollars a day," he wrote. "We are ready to dialogue with honour, but we will not submit to any humiliating accord and to conditions that undermine our credibility."

ARY One, another prominent Pakistani news channel that was closed down, resumed transmissions on 22 November after reaching an undisclosed agreement with Dubai media authorities.

Despite their return, Geo TV and ARY One are reportedly looking to move out of Dubai because of the financial losses incurred by the U.A.E. shutdown.

Back in Pakistan, Musharraf continues his stranglehold on the media. Two FM radio stations, Power99 FM and Mast FM 103, whose equipment was seized during the state of emergency, are still not broadcasting and are on the verge of bankruptcy, notes RSF. In Islamabad, the government has accused two journalists' unions who have been protesting the anti-media ordinances of displaying placards and distributing pamphlets with anti-state sentiments, reports the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). The complaints could lead to union members being arrested and detained without warrant, and criminal charges.
Meanwhile, the Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF) in cooperation with UNESCO has awarded its national press freedom award to Mukesh Rupeta, a GEO TV correspondent in Jacobabad. Rupeta was illegally detained for more than three months in 2006 for filming a military airbase used by U.S. forces. He was so badly tortured while in custody that his family did not recognise him when they saw him in court. Rupeta was only released after Geo TV expressed fears about his safety following the discovery of the body of a journalist in the tribal region of North Waziristan a week earlier.
Visit these links:
- RSF: http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=24609
- CPJ: http://tinyurl.com/2crdvx
- IFJ: http://www.ifj.org/default.asp?Index=5565&Language=EN
- PPF on award: http://tinyurl.com/yw5heg
- Media Charter drawn up by unions on Rural Media Network Pakistan website: http://online-rmnp.tripod.com/id12.html
- AsiaMedia on Geo TV and ARY One: http://tinyurl.com/2drtqk
(4 December 2007)

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