Pakistan - In crackdown on press, new rules set newspapers and TV back 20 years



    MONTREAL, Nov. 6 /CNW Telbec/ - Reporters Without Borders firmly condemns
a crackdown by the security forces on the privately-owned news media. Dozens
of journalists have been detained, attacked or prevented from working.
Transmission equipment has been seized from several broadcast media. New
regulations on newspapers and broadcast media promulgated on 3 November are a
death warrant for some of the privately-owned TV and radio news stations that
emerged in recent years. "For the past three days, Gen. Pervez Musharraf has
been destroying all the press freedom gains one by one," the organisation
said. "Pakistan's media, especially privately-owned TV, radio stations and
independent newspapers, are in danger of losing any possibility of
disseminating independent news as a result of the military offensive."
Reporters Without Borders added: "We support demonstrations by journalists
unions and news media calling for an end to the crackdown on the press and the
state of emergency. The international community must not remain indifferent to
this programmed murder of Pakistan's media." After declaring a state of
emergency, Gen. Musharraf modified the 2002 Press, Newspapers, News Agencies
and Books Registration Ordinance and the 2002 Pakistan Electronic Media
Regulatory Authority Ordinance.
    According to the copies of the amendments obtained by Reporters Without
Borders :

    
    - all the media are now forbidden to broadcast video footage of suicide
      bombers or terrorists, or statements by militants and extremists;
    - express opinions prejudicial to the ideology, sovereignty, integrity or
      security of Pakistan;
    - incite violence or hatred or any action prejudicial to maintenance of
      law and order;
    - broadcast anything that brings the president, armed forces or state
      institutions into ridicule;
    - refer to any matter that is sub-judice;
    - broadcast anything that could be false or baseless.
    

    If the new regulations are violated, the government is given full powers
to seize newspapers, while the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority
(PEMRA) is given similar powers to confiscate equipment from broadcast media.
Media owners face up to three years in prison and a fine of 10 million rupees.
Pakistani radio and TV stations are also banned from signing broadcast
agreements with foreign news media without PEMRA's permission, while cable
operators and distributors can be sentenced to up to a year in prison for
breaking the new rules. Under national and international pressure, the
government had to abandon its plans to tighten the rules for the broadcast
media last June, but the repressive changes have been forced through this
time.

    Violence against the press

    Police yesterday tried to close down the printing works of the Jang media
group in the southern city of Karachi. Staff refused to stop the printing of
one of the group's newspapers, Awam (People), which had a supplement on events
since the state of emergency was proclaimed. This attempt to censor Awam was
thwarted by the actions of the group's management and employees. Around the
same time, police arrested at least five photographers and a cameraman as they
were covering a demonstration by human rights activists outside the Karachi
Press Club. A BBC correspondent was also arrested yesterday near the home of a
Karachi judge as he was trying to take photos. The police erased the shots he
had taken. And in Quetta, a police officer smashed an Agence France-Presse
reporter's camera as he was covering a demonstration. The day before, 4
November, the police went to the offices of Aaj TV in Islamabad and tried to
seize transmission equipment and a truck used for live outside broadcasts. The
police also surrounded the studios of radio FM 99.
    Sattar Kakar, privately-owned ARY television's bureau chief in the
southwestern city of Quetta, and his cameraman were held for several hours on
3 November. The next day, the security forces searched ARY's offices in the
southern city of Sukkur, arresting the bureau chief's two brothers and
threatening employees.
    Before the state of emergency was proclaimed, PEMRA members raided the
studios of radio FM 103 in Islamabad on 3 November. At the behest of Rana
Altaf, a PEMRA official, some 30 policemen surrounded the station and
confiscated broadcast equipment.




For further information:

For further information: Emily Jacquard, secretary general, Reporters
Without Borders Canada, (514) 521-4111, Cell: (514) 258-4208, Fax: (514)
521-7771, rsfcanada@rsf.org

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