15
Mar
07

Govt censored TV coverage of protest rallies

A global media watchdog condemned the Pakistani government yesterday for allegedly censoring the coverage of protests against the sacking of the country’s chief justice.
Paris-based Reporters Without Borders said the Pakistan Media Regulatory Authority suspended broadcasts by the private Aaj and Geo television stations after they screened footage on Monday of clashes between police and lawyers.

The images from Lahore included footage of lawyers covered in blood and being beaten by riot police with batons, following President Pervez Musharraf’s firing of top judge Iftikhar Mohamed Chaudhary on Friday.

“We fear that, in this presidential election year, the independence of the media is going to be under attack from the government. President Pervez Musharraf must immediately stop this kind of authoritarian intervention, which jeopardises the freedom of Pakistani journalists to decide what they cover and how they cover it,

A journalist working for one of the two stations said that Pakistan’s media regulator had ordered cable and satellite operators to “black out stations that carried images of the police violence.”

The stations withdrew the footage from subsequent reports. However the watchdog said Pakistani Information Minister Mohamed Ali Durrani had denied any censorship.

“Under no circumstances did the government ban the media from broadcasting these images. This is a decision of the Supreme Judicial Council. The media are very dear to us and no TV station has been censored,” it quoted him as saying.

The five-member Supreme Judicial Council began hearing charges of misconduct and abuse of power against Chaudhary on Tuesday behind closed doors and has been put off till this Friday.

Lawyers across Pakistan boycotted courts for a third day yesterday.

Source: Gulf Times

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