Massive Crackdown of Electronic Media in Pakistan

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It seems like General Musharraf is getting more and more nervous as Pakistani citizens continue to protest his assault on the judicial system. Now Musharraf’s taking aim at the ever-critical Pakistani media.

On Monday, General Musharraf issued the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) Ordinance, “sweeping curbs on media” that bestow PEMRA with the authority to “seal channels, suspend licenses, make new rules without informing parliament,” and increases the fines tenfold.

This follows the ban issued on Saturday which prohibits live TV coverage of the opposition rallies that denounced Musharraf’s decision to sack the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. The popular Geo TV channel, whose journalists have asked General Musharraf some uncomfortable questions, is one of the victims of this ban.
The subsequent protests in front of the PEMRA office in Islamabad resulted in the police filing “preliminary complaints against about 200 journalists for defying a ban on rallies in the capital by protesting curbs on the media.”

This incident is hitting major American media now, but the stifling of press freedom by the Musharraf government is nothing new. In April, Human Rights Watch issued an open letter to Musharraf about his attempt to “muzzle the media.” The English language Pakistani paper Dawn has kept tabs on the “conflict between the Government and Dawn” from 2004-2007. Reporters Without Borders’ 2007 annual report on Pakistan details the fight for press freedom, and the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) calls the current state of the Pakistani media a “sickening crisis.”

— Neha Inamdar

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