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Regulator suspends Sindh TV while correspondent gets death threats

(RSF/IFEX) - RSF has called on the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) to immediately rescind the orders it gave to cable TV operators to stop retransmitting Sindh TV, the second most popular channel in the southern province of Sindh. The organisation also voiced concern about threats against one of its correspondents, Pervaiz Narejo.

"The PEMRA is not helping press freedom by suspending a privately-owned TV station without giving any reasons," RSF said. "The authorities should avoid any meddling in the development of Pakistan's broadcast media. At the same time, Narejo should get special protection, and the police and judicial authorities should step in and arrest those responsible for threatening him."

Sindh TV has been broadcasting from Bangkok by satellite and cable since October 2004 and is accessible to viewers both outside and inside Pakistan. The public television station PTV is the only terrestrial channel.

Sindh TV news director Razzaque Sirohi said he did not know why PEMRA had ordered cable operators to stop broadcasting the channel. "What is the reason?" he asked. "We have not committed any irregularity and yet, from one day to the next, we are suspended, without any explanation from the authorities. The PEMRA is acting like the policeman of the broadcasting sector."

Various sources said the suspension could be linked to Sindh TV's coverage of honour murders, the Dargai suicide bombing, or the situation in Baluchistan. Sindh TV Executive Director Karim Rajpur told the press the order had come from Islamabad.

The station recently broadcast footage that was compromising for a pro-government politician. Filmed by Narvejo, Sindh TV's correspondent in the town of Dadu, it showed an influential member of the MNA (a pro-government party) hitting a policeman. The policeman was killed a few minutes later, possibly on the politician's orders. After the footage was screened, Narejo and his family received death threats and he was forced to flee to Karachi.

This is not the first time that a television station has been suspended by PEMRA or by local authorities. The Punjab police stopped cable operators from broadcasting ARY TV in September after it screened footage of police brutality (see IFEX alert of 18 September 2006).

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