Islamabad: President General Pervez Musharraf tightened the regulation of Pakistan's media yesterday, the latest move against dissent in a growing political crisis over his suspension of the chief justice.
Under an emergency ordinance that takes effective immediately, Musharraf made a raft of amendments to regulations governing the electronic media, including private television channels that the general has accused of anti-government bias.
The ordinance says authorities can seal the premises of broadcasters or distributors breaking the law, and raises possible fines for violations from Rs1 million rupees (Dh60,593) to Rs10 million rupees (Dh165,016).
The Pakistan Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) can also suspend the licence of an offender.
Mohsin Raza, director of news for the ARY One World channel, said suspension was a serious threat because of the disruption to vital advertising revenue.
"This will let the budding electronic media starve and thousands of people's jobs will be at risk. This is the worst tool the government is preparing," Raza said.
PEMRA spokesman Mohammad Salim was unable to provide a copy of the legislation being amended to specifically determine what other changes had been made. A version posted on the authority's website appeared out of date.
Officials at the Information Ministry could not be reached immediately for comment.
Islamabad (AFP) Hundreds of demonstrators chanted slogans against President Pervez Musharraf yesterday after the alleged blocking of three private television news channels by the Pakistani authorities.
Geo, ARY-ONE and Aaj said they had been kept off air because of their coverage of the political crisis over Musharraf's March 9 ouster of the country's chief justice.
Around 200 journalists, lawyers and opposition supporters protested noisily outside the Islamabad office of Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA).
"PEMRA and the government are fully behind the ban," said Aroosa Alam, the vice president of the Rawalpindi-Islamabad Press Club. "We have won our freedom after a long struggle and nobody can take it back."
The protesters shouted "Go, Musharraf, go" - a rallying call at virtually every rally in support of suspended Supreme Court chief justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry - and "End curbs on the media now."
They also chanted "Death to the disinformation minister" in an apparent reference to Information and Broadcasting Minister Mohammad Ali Durrani, who last week warned the media to tone down its coverage of the crisis.
Durrani was not immediately available for comment, but an information ministry official denied the protesters' claims.
"No channel, including Geo, has been blocked by the government. A channel had some dispute with cable operators after which some of them suspended its transmissions," the official said on condition of anonymity.