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Pakistan TV network returns to the air

Musharraf muzzled the independent Geo for 2 1/2 months but relaxed the restrictions as he left for Europe.

January 22, 2008|From Reuters

ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN — Broadcasts by the private Geo television network resumed Monday in Pakistan more than 2 1/2 months after its transmission was blocked during a state of emergency.

Geo News and its sister sports channel came back on the air hours after President Pervez Musharraf began a four-country trip to Europe, where he expected to face tough questions on media restrictions and human rights.

Geo, Pakistan's most popular television station, was among those that were blocked when Musharraf imposed emergency rule Nov. 3, citing rising militancy and a meddling judiciary. The news and sports channels were the last to come back on the air.

Musharraf lifted the emergency in mid-December but Geo, which made a name for itself with hard-hitting political talk shows, had remained blocked on cable channels.

Its broadcasts from Dubai in the United Arab Emirates were available on satellite and via the Internet, although the emirates blocked its satellite broadcasts for several weeks in November and December.

Information Minister Nisar Memon said Sunday that the channel had been given the go-ahead to broadcast after it signed a code of conduct.

Imran Aslam, the president of Geo News, said that the channel had not yet signed the code of conduct, but that Geo would have to abide by it. He also said he was unaware of any pact to keep some of its controversial journalists off the air.

Relations between Musharraf and the independent media began to sour in March when the president first tried to dismiss the country's chief justice, unleashing a storm of protest from lawyers and the pro-democracy opposition.

Musharraf has accused some television channels of adding to the political uncertainty that led him to impose emergency rule.

But critics say the state of emergency was aimed at neutralizing legal challenges to Musharraf's moves to secure a new five-year term as president while he was still army chief.

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