International news channels BBC and CNN and two local stations returned to Pakistani screens today after authorities relaxed a ban imposed under a state of emergency. President Pervez Musharraf’s government took the channels off cable as part of strict curbs on the media, leaving millions of Pakistanis starved of news about the political crisis gripping their country.
“Aaj, Dawn, BBC and CNN have been allowed on cable,” a spokesman for the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority told AFP. Aaj, an Urdu channel, and Dawn, which broadcasts in English, are two of the country’s biggest. But two leading private channels, Geo and ARYOne, remain off air.
Geo, the largest network, has lodged a challenge against the ban with the high court of southern Sindh province, which is based in Karachi. Under emergency rule, the media are barred from publishing or broadcasting material that defames Musharraf, the armed forces or the government. The order says there is a maximum punishment of three years in prison or a fine of 10 million rupees (166,700 dollars) for anyone who breaches the code.
Pakistani authorities Tuesday effectively banned the import of satellite television equipment, placing a further curb on coverage of the crisis. Most of the channels have been broadcasting over the Internet as well.
(Source: AFP/R Netherlands Media Network Weblog)