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GEO TV BACK ON AIR

Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf has ordered popular TV channel Geo News and its sports channel back on the air, but only after some programmes were removed, report Reporters Without Borders (RSF), the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and local news reports.

On 21 January, Geo News and its sister sports channel, Geo Super, resumed broadcasting after being forced off television screens for two and a half months. All of Geo's channels as well as national and foreign news channels were banned on 3 November 2007, the day that Musharraf proclaimed a state of emergency.

Most of the other TV stations that were banned resumed broadcasting after signing a code of conduct imposed by the government on 12 November. Geo TV refused to sign.

According to RSF, the agreement between Geo TV's owners and the government is conditional - Dr. Shahid Massod and Hamid Mir, two veteran journalists and commentators who host their own shows, can continue working for the station but cannot present their own news programmes. RSF says the authorities also requested that columns by pro-government commentators should be published more often in two popular newspapers owned by Geo TV, "The News" and "Jang".

"It is regrettable that the government insisted on the withdrawal of certain programmes," says RSF. "This constitutes yet further evidence that censorship is unfortunately still the rule just a few weeks before the parliamentary elections scheduled for 18 February."

According to news reports, the network's loss is estimated to be more than US$20 million, which could jeopardise the livelihood of Geo's 10,000 employees.

Visit these links:
- RSF: http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=25129
- IFJ: http://www.ifj.org/default.asp?Index=5714&Language=EN
- IFJ, "Emergency in Pakistan: Crisis Mission Rapid Assessment": http://tinyurl.com/2yvhfh
- Pakistan Press Foundation: http://tinyurl.com/yvq45g
- Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists: http://tinyurl.com/22twzw
- Rural Media Network Pakistan: http://online-rmnp.tripod.com
(22 January 2008)

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