, August 9, 2010—The Committee to Protect Journalists calls for the Pakistani government to allow GEO TV and ARY News stations back on the air. The shutdown, coupled with demonstrations by government supporters outside the cable companies’ facilities Saturday night came soon after the stations aired news about a protester throwing shoes at Pakistan’s President Asif Ali Zardari during a speech in England.
According to ARY News’ correspondent Jamal Khan Baluch: “On Saturday evening in Karachi, the staff of President Zardari called cable operators and ordered them to block ARY News transmissions all over Pakistan. When some cable operators refused to do so they started threatening and sent their armed people to different cable operators’ locations, where they started firing towards their offices and their staff.”
There were no serious injuries reported. Staffers at Geo News in Pakistan
confirmed the story. Both networks’ news desks said the ban is still in effect.
According to Pakistani media
reports, the demonstrators outside of the cable companies’ facilities were
supporters of Zardari’s Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP).
incident occurred in Birmingham on Saturday
night, as Zardari was speaking to a closed meeting of Pakistanis who live in England.
The official Pakistani government news service issued
a story stating the reports were not true, citing “the sensational and unverified
reporting by media.” The Associated Press reported
from Birmingham that the unnamed heckler was apparently angered by the
government’s poor response to widespread flooding in the country that has left
hundreds of thousands of people homeless.
Soon after the Saturday incident, GEO’s website reported
that some PPP leaders and government officials had warned cable operators
across the country to cease transmission of GEO, but most refused to do so. As
of this morning, “most of the cable companies in all the large cities have been
forced to stop carrying ARY and Geo—it’s not just in Karachi,” Baluch told CPJ today.
in the middle of the civil calamity brought about by massive flooding, the
country needs its news media more than ever,” said Bob Dietz, CPJ’s Asia program coordinator. Shutting down two leading cable
operators during a critical time in Pakistan is frankly a selfish
attempt by the government to protect itself. The order to take GEO TV and ARY News is a monumental
error, and should be rescinded immediately.”
Associated Press of Pakistan reported
today that 1,204 have died
and 1,309 have been injured, with 4,772 villages and more than 3 million people
affected by the flooding. The United Nations put the number of affected considerably higher. The
U.N. estimates that 6 million people have been affected by the floods,
which have inundated villages, killing people and destroying homes, crops, the
infrastructure, and other property. Continuing rainfall has been hampering the
emergency humanitarian response.
demonstrated in front of Karachi Press Club,
protested the shutdown of the stations, demanding they be allowed back on the air.