Musharraf government suspends TV station

New York, February 7, 2008—The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf’s decision to remove independent broadcaster Aaj TV from air for more than 12 hours.

Satellite transmissions of Aaj were shut down Wednesday after a prominent critic of the Musharraf government, Nusrat Javed, appeared on a late-night political talk show, according to The Associated Press. Aaj was among more than 40 channels that were taken off air soon after Musharraf declared a state of emergency and suspended the country’s constitution on November 3. Though all the channels eventually broadcast again, many did so only after taking anchors and journalists critical of the government off the air and curtailing live coverage of demonstrations and other events that showed opposition to the government.   

“We have repeatedly opposed the Musharraf government’s attempts to restrict the press as Pakistan’s political situation has grown worse,” said Joel Simon, CPJ’s executive director. “Now, in the run-up to the elections scheduled for February 18, the situation is growing increasingly critical. It is time for those governments that claim to support a democratic process in Pakistan, and who have thrown their support behind President Musharraf, to exert pressure on him to ensure a free and open media can cover the electoral process without fear of punishment.”

Aaj was shut down midway through the live talk show “Live with Talat,” a popular political show, after Javed appeared as a guest, The Associated Press reported. He had also anchored his own popular late night show, “Bolta Pakistan” (Talking Pakistan) before the November 3 clampdown.

The station had resumed transmission on Thursday, and a spokesman for the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority told The Associated Press the block had never occurred.