The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has condemned Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari for imposing a ban on the Geo TV News, accusing him of “intolerable interference” in press freedom which undermines the reputation of his government.
The IFJ also welcomed the reported resignation of Information Minister Sherry Rehman in protest at the President’s action. “Her offer to resign shows a degree of principle in a tawdry incident that casts a shadow over the good name of the governing Pakistan People’s Party,” said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. “The President is guilty of the most intolerable interference in press freedom.”
Rehman was reported by local media as having resigned after she failed to convince the President to lift the ban on the telecast of Geo and Aaj TV channels in major Pakistani cities over their coverage of protesting lawyers and opposition party opinions. Zardari gave direct orders for the blocking of the transmission of Geo News.
The IFJ says that Pakistan media are now at the centre of a struggle for democratic values in the country. The IFJ has strongly supported its affiliate, the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists, which has been campaigning for media reform and action to strengthen ethical journalism across the robust media sector.
“Standards of journalism have to improve, but that will not happen when government tries to dictate to journalists what is acceptable,” said White. “The government and President Zardari must end hostile actions against media and keep out of the newsroom”
An IFJ mission to Pakistan met with Asif Ali Zardari before his Pakistan People’s Party came to power and he promised that in government there would be no hostile relationship with media which had characterized the regime of former President Pervez Musharraf.
At an IFJ meeting in Lahore last year Minister Rehman gave her full support to the PFUJ and IFJ efforts to strengthen standards in Pakistan media.