Over 30 people demonstrated outside the London embassy of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on Tuesday of this week over attempts to prevent the Pakistani TV channel, Geo TV, from broadcasting from Dubai in the UAE.
Geo TV said it had received a “communications” from the Dubai administration asking it to stop two popular current affairs talk shows or else close down. The station argues that Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf is behind the move.
One of the protesters, Kashmiri born, Doctor Shabir Choudry, told Socialist Worker, “Geo TV is very popular. It exposes the actions of Musharraf’s military junta and the anti-democratic forces in Pakistan, publicising, for example, the military’s use of white phosphorus in last July’s bombing of the Red mosque.”
Iftikhar Qaisar, London bureau chief of Geo TV pointed out, “This is a freedom of speech issue. Musharraf has a problem with democracy.”
In November 2007, during Musharraf’s Emergency rule, when parliament was suspended, the Dubai authorities pulled the plug on the channel. Allowing it to resume only after international condemnation. The channel remained banned in Pakistan until January 2008.
The two talk shows that the Dubai authorities want off air, Capital Talk and Merey Mutabiq (According to Me) only came back on Geo TV in March, after the Pakistani elections.
The channel says it had been told the programmes – which have come out openly in support of the restoration of the judges sacked by Musharraf – were damaging relations between Dubai and Pakistan.
Dalawar Chaudry, a Southall based restaurant owner, explained, “We feel Musharraf is relying on his pals in the Middle East to deny Geo TV its rights.”
The attempt by the Dubai administration to close down broadcasts has been criticised by the International Federation of Journalists and Reporters Without Borders.