Muzaffarabad, Nov 9: Journalists and members of civil society organizations staged protest demonstrations in different parts of Pakistan administered Kashmir on Friday, joining their Pakistani counterparts to express indignation against the crackdown launched by the Pakistan government on independent media.
In Muzaffarabad, a sit-in was staged outside Central Press Club by the activists and members of some political, students and media organizations for about an hour and paid tributes to Pakistani media for refusing to comply with the censorship imposed by Gen Pervez Musharraf.
The demonstrators had also displayed placards inscribed with slogans condemning the curbs on free media after the imposition of a "virtual martial law" in the country by Gen Musharraf.
"Gen Musharraf has at last proved that his claims about giving freedom to media in Pakistan were nothing more than a gimmick," said political activist Shaukat Javed Mir on the occasion.
Student leader Asif Mustafai called upon the regime to let the nation avail itself of the right to know the unbiased and unfiltered information.
"The independence of print and electronic media is basic to democracy which the regime has been claiming a day in a day out to have introduced in Pakistan. But practically the media has been strangled with black laws."
The demonstrators also criticized the PaK government for intimidating the cable operators in the region into taking the transmissions of independent national and international news channels off air.
"This region is not covered by the virtual martial law imposed by Pakistan government but nevertheless we are also facing a blackout of media here which is highly condemnable," said a leader of Islami Jamiat Talba.
In Rawalakot, members of PaK Union of Journalists, wearing around their necks chains and black bands with a lock tied to them, took out a rally from local press club which marched through the town's main road amid chants for freedom of press.
"(Gen) Musharraf: Your tactics cannot stop journalists from reporting truth," read one of the several placards carried by the participants of the rally.
Friday's demonstrations were held on the call of Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ), in protest against the government's failure to meet its deadline for withdrawal of anti-media ordinances issued by President Musharraf at the weekend.
Anchors on television channels that are able to circumvent the regulations by broadcasting via satellite wore black armbands while journalists' organizations hoisted black flags at press clubs and continued to boycott official functions.
Four small broadcasters were allowed to resume their domestic transmissions in what many media owners alleged for agreeing to comply with the ordinances.
The reinstatement of some broadcasts was an attempt by the government to fracture unity among journalists and free speech advocates, but the attempt would fail, said The PFUJ Secretary-General, Mazhar Abbas on Friday.
The regulations, introduced through ordinances, outlaw publication or broadcast of material considered to be offensive or contrary to the national interest, including live broadcasts of incidents of violence and conflict, video footage of alleged militants, and programs deemed to incite violence. Breaches can be punished with jail sentences and fines of up to 10 million rupees.