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Dubai agrees to pull plug on Pakistani TV networks

  • Story Highlights
  • NEW: GEO-TV president: "It seemed very obvious that they were going to do this"
  • Order comes on the request of Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf
  • GEO-TV and ARY Digital offer varied programming, including news
  • Both networks transmit from the United Arab Emirates
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LAHORE, Pakistan (CNN) -- Two Pakistani television networks that transmit from Dubai in United Arab Emirates were ordered off the air Friday at the request of Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, officials from the networks said.

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Pakistan's president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, has been under pressure to lift a state of emergency.

GEO-TV and ARY Digital offer a variety of programming, including news, entertainment, sports and music.

Both networks had been banned from Pakistan's cable television system -- along with other networks, including CNN and BBC -- since Musharraf declared a state of emergency on November 3.

This latest action prevents the two Pakistani networks from broadcasting worldwide via satellite.

"This was basically our window to the world, GEO President Imran Aslan said. "In Pakistan, we've been shut down since the 3rd."

The action was not wholly unexpected, but surprising nevertheless, Aslan said.

"We uplink from Dubai, never having had a license to uplink from Pakistan," he said. "Dubai is a media city which seemed to be a haven and a sanctuary."

Aslan said network officials have been in discussions with Pakistani government officials and "it seemed very obvious that they were going to do this. We were ready for it to a certain extent."

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"Eventually they decided to put their feet on the pipe, as it were."

The government has made numerous demands of the network, although none of them official, Aslan said.

"It's done through intermediaries," he said. "[Dulling] down the content, not having certain anchors, some of the hosts of our programs and talk shows."

Musharraf's emergency order put several restrictions on the media, preventing journalists from expressing opinions prejudicial to "the ideology ... or integrity of Pakistan."

Journalists are also restricted from covering suicide bombings and militant activity and could face three-year jail terms if they "ridicule" members of the government or armed forces.

Almost a dozen journalists have been arrested.

Musharraf has denied that his restrictions bar criticism, saying they only ask for responsibility in reporting.

But last week, Pakistan expelled three print journalists for using language in an editorial that a Pakistani official called offensive to Musharraf.

The editorial criticized Musharraf and the United States and Britain for continuing to support him.

While many Pakistani journalists have protested the restrictions, some smaller television channels have complied with the government's restrictions.

GEO and ARY have refused.

"It seems most of the other channels have kowtowed in order to survive," Aslan said.

Musharraf has said the emergency order improves stability and will foster peaceful parliamentary elections, which he has said he would like to see take place before January 9.

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The exact date will be set by Pakistan's Election Commission.

Opposition leaders have accused Musharraf of declaring emergency rule to keep his hold on power and avoid an expected court ruling that would have nullified his election victory in October. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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