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Live transmission of Supreme Court speech blocked in Karachi

(IFJ/IFEX) - The following is an IFJ media release:

Black Day to Fight for Media Freedom in Pakistan

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) supports its affiliate, the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ), in observing a "Black Day" on March 10 to stand up against anti-media laws in Pakistan and the recent blockage of live transmission of a Supreme Court speech.

The PFUJ called for the Black Day after the broadcast by private television channels of a speech by the President of the Supreme Court Bar Association, Aitzad Ahsan, to lawyers in the Sindh High Court was blocked in Karachi on March 3.

According to information given to the PFUJ, police allegedly told journalists and media workers from the television channels to remove their equipment and stop live coverage of Ahsan's speech under the directive of a Sindh High Court official.

"It is most regrettable on the part of the police and court officials, as the journalists were not covering any case but the address of the President of the Supreme Court Bar Association. This is not acceptable to us and we will protest against such orders," the PFUJ said in a statement.

All affiliated unions and press clubs have been asked to hoist black flags on their buildings and offices on March 10 to express solidarity with a year-long struggle by Pakistan's lawyers.

"It is our firm belief that democracy cannot flourish without free media and independence of the judiciary," the PFUJ said.

Thousands of journalists in Pakistan have fought against anti-media laws and struggled for freedom of expression, freedom of the press and the implementation of the Seventh Wage Award, particularly since President Pervez Musharraf imposed temporary emergency rule on November 3, 2007.

The IFJ joins the PFUJ in urging the Supreme Court Bar Association, other professional bodies and trade unions to unite for democracy in Pakistan. The PFUJ and the IFJ request that the parties in the new coalition government honour their commitments to abolish all anti-media laws, including the amended Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) Ordinance, and the 2002 anti-labour Industrial Relations Ordinance.

The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 120 countries.

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