A representative of Geo Television has reported that due to immense pressure from President Musharraf and the Pakistani authorities the Dubai authorities, in an apologetic manner, has communicated to Geo Television that the channel should stop two popular talk shows, the “Capital Talk” and “Meraya Mutabiq”. Mr. Imran Asalm, the president of the channel, told Reporters Without Borders, that the Dubai authorities informed him last night that the station would lose its license if “Capital Talk,” a show hosted by Hamid Mir, and “Meray Mutabiq”, hosted by Shahid Masood, were not taken off the air.
Of all the independent broadcasters, Geo Television has suffered the most from the autocratic rule of President Musharraf and during the lawyer’s movement Geo was the first television channel which was attacked by the police on March 16, 2007, within just five days of the suspension of the Chief Justice, Iftekhar Choudhry. The studios were smashed even in the presence of then minister of information. The police also conducted surveillance on a lady reporter of the channel who was covering the demonstrations of lawyers. Since the start of the lawyer’s movement, from March 09, 2007, the channel was under strong pressure and threats from the government and this is now the second time that the 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 was at that time under emergency rule imposed by President Musharraf. The channel remained off the air for almost six months.
Officials at the Dubai Media City, where the Geo TV group is based, said these programmes threatened the UAE’s relations with a friendly country. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) also expressed grave concern on the dropping of two popular talk shows at the request of the government of the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
In the age of freedom of media the use of “brotherly relation ship between the countries” is a new system to curb the freedom of media.
Since the suspension of the Chief Justice of Pakistan, Mr. Iftekhar Choudhary on March 9, the Pakistan government has opened yet another front in the hopes of exercising damage control in an attack on television stations that have been airing open discussions on the latest developments with regard to the political situation and also the judicial crisis.
For example, the police forces attacked the office of the Geo TV at Islamabad and destroyed the broadcasting equipment on 16 March 2007. Moreover, the Geo TV program “Kamran Khan Kay Sath” was banned for four days based on the instruction of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting.
Another TV channel, the AAJ, had received a Show Cause Notice issued by the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Sindh Region) (PEMRA). For details of this matter, please see also the AHRC statement AS-086-2007 issued on 25 April 2007. The AAJ TV Station had been further attacked by armed groups of a ruling party for about 6 hours on 12 May 2007. This channel is under continuous pressure from the government even to-date. On several occasions the transmissions of the AAJ had been intercepted by the government. Another popular TV channel, ARY One, has also been receiving tremendous pressure from the government.
Meanwhile, on 30 May 2007, President Musharraf has warned the media not to broadcast programs against the government’s armed forces and about the judicial crisis. He announced that he would take stern action against those channels which are taking ‘advantage’ out of the judicial crisis in the country. In his address in a press conference on May 31, the Federal Minister of Information and Broadcasting announced that his ministry had the intention to merge PEMRA, an autonomous central government body, into the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. This will result in even stricter censorship by the government over the media in t! he count ry. The Minister further said that the media should not be allowed to misuse the freedom given ‘by the government’. On June 5, President Musharraf has further issued an ordinance which has handed unprecedented powers to the PEMRA, allowing it to seize the broadcast or distribution service equipment of television and radio channels and suspend their licenses (For details, see also AS-113-2007. Please also see: UA-178-2007.
Please immediately write letters to the authorities in Dubai and Pakistan to show your concerns about the orders from the government Dubai on the request from Pakistani authorities to stop the transmissions of Geo Television from Dubai and demand to lift the threats of closure from the most popular channel of the Pakistan.
The AHRC has also written a letter to the UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression for his intervention.
UNITED ARAB EMIRATES/PAKISTAN: A Pakistani television channel asked to stop its transmissions
I am writing to voice my concern of the instructions of the government of Dubai to Geo Television to cease broadcasts of two talk shows because they may offend the Pakistan regime of President Musharraf. The instructions from the government of Dubai came after requests by the Pakistan government in the name of ‘brotherly relationships’.
The apparent reason for this censorship of these programmes is the coverage of the Pakistan Lawyer’s movement which is currently on a long march to have the chief justice, Mr. Iftehkar Chaudry and the dismissed judges reinstated. This was a campaign promise of the newly elected government and is already long overdue. The lawyers are therefore marching to bring the attention of the country and the world to this matter. It is because of this very reason that the government of President Musharraf wishes to silence Geo Television.
Repression of the media is not new in Pakistan and during last year several other television stations were either attacked by armed gangs or forced off the air. I ask for your urgent intervention with the government of Dubai to cease their actions against Geo Television and to allow them to continue broadcasting these talk shows.
I request you not to stop the transmission and let the channel know how and when it had violated the rules and regulations of Dubai in its telecasts for the last many years. In my concern any such action by the Dubai authorities will cause serious unwarranted damage not only to the channel but also to the freedom of media all of the world. I also urge upon the governments of Pakistan and the UAE to explain how the Geo News that broadcasts by satellite from Dubai, was under threat of losing its license to operate in Dubai.
In the end I request 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.
PLEASE SEND YOUR LETTERS TO:
1. General Pervez Musharraf
Fax: +92 51 922 1422, 4768/ 920 1893 or 1835
E-mail: (please see-> http://www.presidentofpakistan.gov.pk/WTPresidentMessage.aspx)
2. Mr. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum
Vice President and Prime Minister
UNITED ARAB EMIRATES (UAE)
Tel: +2 626 5000
Fax: +2 621 5333
3. Mr. Syed Yousaf Raza Gillani
Prime minister of Pakistan
Prime Minister House, Islamabad,
Fax: +92 51 9221596
Tel. No: +92 51 9206111
4. Ms. Sherry Rehman
Minister of Information and Broadcastings
Pakistan Secretariat, Islamabad,
Fax: +92 51-9203740