New York, March 13,
2009--Amid widespread civil demonstrations and a growing political crisis,
Aaj Television, another independent broadcaster, was also taken off cable in major cities today but was restored later in most places, according to Talat Hussain, the station's executive director for news and current affairs. Hussain said Aaj was still not being carried in several smaller markets.
The stations' signals started being dropped around 7:30 p.m.
local time, Abbas and Hussain said. The stations became aware of the situation
when viewers called the newsrooms asking why they could no longer see the
channels. Abbas said Geo's signal had been removed from carriers in
Where they remained on the air, the two stations were moved to less prominent positions not available to most cable viewers, they each reported.
Cable operators contacted by Geo TV said government officials had ordered them to drop the station, a directive they felt compelled to follow. "This is the same tactic we saw under the Musharraf government. Nothing has changed," Abbas told CPJ. He was referring to censorship policies pursued by the government near the end of Gen. Pervez Musharraf's 10-year tenure.
"The promise of open media in
News of the apparent censorship spread quickly online. Users
of the social networking site Twitter reported Geo and Aaj outages throughout the
country. Internet users in
Hundreds of political activists and lawyers have been detained in recent days, after President Asif Ali Zardari's refused to reinstate Supreme Court justices ousted by Musharraf. The court also ruled in February that former prime minister and opposition leader Nawaz Sharif could not run for political office.