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Two popular GEO TV talk shows taken off-air at UAE government's request, due to Pakistani political concerns

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

IFJ Demands UAE Overturn Ban on Pakistan TV Programs

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is extremely concerned that two popular talk programs transmitted to Pakistan from Dubai-based GEO TV have been taken off air at the request of the Government of United Arab Emirates (UAE).

The IFJ calls on the UAE Government to explain why, and on whose authority, it asked the independent Pakistan television broadcaster to cancel the programs.

The Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ), an affiliate of the IFJ, said the owner of GEO and the Jang group of newspapers, Mir Shakeelur Rehman, confirmed that UAE authorities had asked GEO to discontinue broadcasting Capital Talk, hosted by Islamabad-based Hamid Mir, and Meray Mutabek, hosted by Dubai-based Shahid Masood.

UAE authorities reportedly told GEO management that they did not want anything transmitted from Dubai to disturb UAE's relationship with friendly countries.

Pakistan's Information Minister, Sherry Rehman, reportedly said that Pakistan's new civilian government had not asked UAE to act against GEO.

It is the second time in six months that UAE has blocked GEO programming. On November 17, 2007, the broadcaster's Dubai office was shut down by a phone call from the UAE Government under pressure from Pakistan, which at that time was under emergency rule imposed by President Pervez Musharraf. Dubai-based Pakistan broadcaster ARY-One suffered the same fate.

Mir told the IFJ today that he had received messages in recent weeks that President Musharraf was displeased with his program. Mir was informed this morning, as he prepared for his regular Thursday program, that the closure of both shows came into force at midnight on June 11.

Capital Talk had only returned to air in early March 2008 after being banned during the November state of emergency.

Today, the PFUJ was informed that the new bans would be debated when Pakistan's Parliament next meets on June 14.

The IFJ joins the PFUJ in calling for a prompt parliamentary resolution for Pakistan's Government to request that UAE authorities not intervene in the affairs of independent broadcasters and that the ban be overturned and the programs returned to air.

"The new Dubai bans against GEO TV continue a disturbing censorship pact that emerged in November 2007 when Pakistan pressured UAE to act against independent broadcasters," said IFJ Asia-Pacific.

"The IFJ calls on the UAE Government to step back from its interference in independent and critical programming, which are essential components of a free media and open society anywhere in the world."

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

Updates the GEO TV case: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/88198

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