Pakistan bans import of satellite equipment

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ISLAMABAD, Nov 13 (Reuters) Pakistan banned the import of satellite dishes and equipment today, more than a week after it blocked broadcasts by private news channels following the imposition of emergency rule on November 3.

The Ministry of Commerce, which issued the import ban, did not say why but many people have switched to satellite broadcasts for their news after authorities ordered news channels' cable broadcasts stopped.

''Import shall be allowed into the country only after obtaining specific permission ... from the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority,'' the ministry said in the order.

Last week authorities in at least two cities banned the sale of satellite equipment.

Hours after declaring emergency rule and suspending the constitution on Nov. 3, President Pervez Musharraf ordered the imposition of sweeping reporting curbs and banned any coverage deemed to humiliate him or his government.

Private news channels have been off the air since then.

International news channels BBC and CNN have also been blocked.

Newspapers have been publishing as normal although the government expelled three journalists from a British newspaper at the weekend after it used what was deemed ''foul and abusive'' language in an editorial.

The media has flourished since Musharraf seized power in a coup in 1999 and he has often referred to the lively and -- until last week -- largely free industry as one of his government's achievements.

But the media has been highly critical of the military ruler since he tried to sack the country's chief justice in March.

Musharraf's popularity, on the slide since, plunge further after his announcement of emergency rule and he faces mounting domestic and international pressure to quit the army and restore the constitution.

REUTERS SKB RN1804

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