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IFJ calls on political parties to respect protesting journalists

(IFJ/IFEX) - 10 August 2010 - The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) urges Pakistan's political parties to ensure their members refrain from abuse of journalists who have voiced strong objection to obstruction of broadcasts by GEO TV and ARY News since early August 8.

Journalists in Karachi and elsewhere in the country conducted rallies on August 9 to protest blocks on the two cable television channels following the channels' reporting of a protest against Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari in Britain on August 7. Further protests are expected today.

While the channels are now airing in some parts of the country, blocks on broadcasts have particularly affected Karachi and interior Sindh.

GEO TV reported on its website that copies of Jang newspaper (which is associated with GEO) were burnt today near Dhabeji, east of Karachi, after a delivery van driver was assaulted by unknown armed men. Police have reportedly declined to act on the assault.

Threats have also reportedly been made against the two stations. The threats are said to have come from some members of the ruling Pakistan People's Party (PPP).

It is reported that opposition to the stations' coverage of Zardari's visit to Europe, while the country contends with a nation-wide humanitarian disaster in the wake of extreme flooding over the past two weeks, has been expressed through graffiti (or "wall chalking") in Karachi.

"The IFJ urges Pakistan's government and telecommunications authorities to promptly reverse restrictions on television broadcasts and refrain from further obstruction, especially in view of the critical need for Pakistan's population to be kept well informed about the country's unfolding emergency," IFJ General Secretary Aidan White said.

The furore over the stations' coverage followed an incident in Birmingham on August 7 when a protester hurled shoes at Zardari during a PPP event.

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