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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Zardari forces closure of ‘Meray Mutabiq’ in Dubai

Dr Shahid faces life threats; Geo programme to be telecast from another location; bar widely condemned

News Desk

KARACHI: Under immense pressure from President Asif Ali Zardari on the Dubai government, 'Meray Mutabiq', the popular programme of Dr Shahid Masood on Geo TV, was banned from being telecast on Monday night from the Dubai studios of Geo TV.

Dr Masood presented his programme from a different location without the use of his studio and technical facilities and announced that he had been stopped by the local authorities from presenting his programme.

The popular talk show host also disclosed that he had received serious life threats from PPP leaders who had told him to come to Pakistan and conduct his programme from this country and then "we will see you".

In an exact replay of the Musharraf era, the use of influence and pressure on a foreign government by the president of Pakistan is a direct attack on the freedom of the press in Pakistan, the Geo TV management said in a statement on Monday night.

It announced that the programme will still be telecast from a different location, as was done on Monday night.The management of Geo TV condemned the action of the Pakistani authorities to use the influence of a foreign government to deny freedom of expression and the Press.

Monday night's programme of Dr Shahid Masood featured Group Editor of The News Shaheen Sehbai and Editor Investigations of The News Ansar Abbasi, who condemned the action, and with one voice declared that the action would not force Geo TV to succumb to government pressure.

Shaheen Sehbai expressed shock and regret and said the action showed that the PPP leaders had pushed the panic button in desperation otherwise there was no reason why they could not tolerate the voice of any journalist or any TV talk show host.

Sehbai said the action by the PPP rulers was a direct negation of democracy and freedom of speech and would be resisted by all democracy and freedom loving people in Pakistan and round the world. In today's world of instant communications, Internet, U-Tube, SMS, emails, Twitter and private phone-videos, such a ban was nothing but sheer stupidity.

Journalist Ansar Abbasi said the journalists community had fought similar bans throughout their careers, specially under dictators, and they had always won and they will again win this time. But he said the regrettable part was that the curbs had been imposed by a government which called itself democratically elected.

Dr Shahid Masood in his statement revealed that he had been receiving threats to his life and the banning of his show in Dubai was a clear proof of the desperation and panic in the government. He, however, expressed his determination to continue speaking the truth and exposing the corruption and wrongdoings of the government, without fear.

Geo TV has always raised issues of public importance and had been in the vanguard of the movement for the restoration of the judges, against corruption of public money and for democracy and rule of law.

These issues had resulted in a similar ban imposed by the former dictator General Musharraf for three months after the imposition of the Nov 3 emergency but Geo TV and its journalists and TV hosts stood their ground and finally saw the dictator disappear into the dustbin of history.

The government action against Geo TV programme was immediately condemned by a wide spectrum of political leaders, media organisations and human rights bodies. Spokesman of the PML-N Ahsan Iqbal said it was an attack on the democratic freedom guaranteed under the Constitution and his party strongly condemned it. Chairman of the Pakistan Human Rights Commission Iqbal Haider called it a crude attack on all democratic norms and a violation of constitution which will be fought with full force.

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