Three more journalists arrested; cable distribution of four TV stations

Reporters Without Borders notes that cable TV operators have
resumed distribution of the Pakistani television channels Aaj TV and Dawn
TV and two foreign news channels, BBC and CNN. The organisation condemns
the requirement imposed on Aaj TV to drop two of its talk shows before the
resumption of broadcasting was allowed.

Meanwhile, Abdul Sattar Kakar of ARY TV and Jamal Tharkai of the newspaper
"Awam" were arrested by police on 14 November 2007 in Quetta while taking
part in a protest against media censorship. The same day, Aaj TV
correspondent Nadem Khattak, who had already been arrested on 3 November,
was arrested again in the northwestern district of Lakki Marwat while
covering an opposition demonstration. The security forces took his camera.

"The government's blackmailing of Pakistan's TV stations, banned since 3
November, is unacceptable," Reporters Without Borders said. "The
authorities have asked TV executives to eliminate outspoken programmes,
sideline the most independent journalists and sign a code of conduct
requiring self-censorship."

The organisation added: "We are pleased for Pakistani viewers, who were
desperate for news information, but we continue to demand the unconditional
return of all the TV stations. We also condemn yesterday's arrests of three
journalists, two in Quetta and one near Peshawar."

Aaj TV's news editor confirmed to Reporters Without Borders on 15 November
that the government told cable operators they could resume distributing its
programming after it had dropped two talk shows "Live With Talat" and
"Bolta Pakistan." Cable operators were also allowed to restore distribution
of the recently-launched Dawn News.

The BBC and CNN, which had been censored, like the Pakistani news TV
stations, were also once again available to the millions of Pakistani homes
that have cable.

ARY TV and Geo TV, on the other hand, are still banned. ARY TV journalists
said the government was demanding the elimination of talk shows presented
by hosts Kashif Abbas and Asthma Shirazi as a precondition for allowing the
station back on the air. Both Geo TV and ARY TV reportedly refused to give
assurances that they would not broadcast comments critical of the

Journalists Hamid Mir and Shahid Masood of Geo TV have been singled out for
criticism by the authorities. Several sources said government members were
pressuring TV station owners to give a commitment to get their employees to
adopt a code of conduct drafted by the government that requires
self-censorship on political matters.


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