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Pakistani news channel back on air

Ban lifted on Dubai-based satcaster AYROne

BAGHDAD — Pakistan’s ARYOne TV news channel is back on air after authorities in Dubai, where the satcaster is based, lifted a ban imposed when President Pervez Musharraf declared a state of emergency.

“The channel is back on cable networks in Pakistan,” ARYOne news director Mohsin Raza announced Nov. 23 in Islamabad.

The satcaster and another private channel, Geo, had been blacked out on cable in Pakistan from the start of the state of emergency on Nov. 3. On Nov. 16, satellite transmissions of both channels out of Dubai also were halted.

The decision to resume ARYOne broadcasts was reached after a “mutual understanding” was reached, said Amina al-Rustamani, the head of Dubai’s media watchdog.

Al-Rustamani said discussions with Geo News were still under way.

When the plug was pulled on the two channels, Al-Rustamani said Dubai Media City, where many broadcasters are based, could not allow the media it hosts to put out material flouting UAE policies.

Ibrahim al-Abed, director of the National Media Council, the regulator of media in the United Arab Emirates, said Dubai follows a policy of “moderation, neutrality and non-interference in others’ affairs.” The UAE is “keen on maintaining total and objective neutrality toward the political events unfolding in Pakistan,” Abed was quoted as saying by the official WAM news agency.

“The closure of the two television channels is compatible with the UAE’s … foreign policy,” he added.

The New York-based Human Rights Watch had called on the government of Dubai to allow the two news channels to resume operations immediately. It said the ban was damaging Dubai’s reputation as a neutral commercial and media center.

Some of the journalists, who held protests across Pakistan against the strict media curbs imposed under emergency rule, were beaten and arrested by police during the demonstrations.

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