Two Pakistani news channels back on air

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ISLAMABAD, Nov 15 (Reuters) Pakistani authorities begun allowing private television news channels back on the air today nearly two weeks after they were banished under a state of emergency imposed by military President Pervez Musharraf.

Two of four main national news channels that disappeared from cable services after the Nov 3 emergency were back today.

International channels CNN and the BBC were still blocked but Sky News reappeared a day after it too went off the air.

''They have promised that they will honour the PEMRA rules,'' said Railways Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed, a former information minister and close Musharraf ally, referring to the state media regulatory authority.

Army chief Musharraf cited a meddling judiciary hampering the fight against militancy when he imposed the emergency, and suspended the constitution, sacked and detained top judges, arrested thousands of opponents and curbed the media.

Analysts say his main concern was his continued rule, under threat from a hostile Supreme Court that might have been about to rule unlawful his October re-election by loyalist legislators while still army chief.

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 feisty private media that grew up during his rule has been highly critical of him since he tried to sack the country's chief justice in March.

Musharraf accused some television channels of adding to the uncertainty that led to emergency rule.

Owners of news channels were not immediately available for comment but some of their journalists vowed that their editorial independence would not be compromised.

''Any understanding between the employer and the government that will infringe on our editorial independence is not going to be acceptable,'' said Talat Hussain, executive director of news at the Aaj station, one of the two that reappeared.

''We will either resist or resign from our jobs,'' he said.

Journalists have been staging protests across the country against the media curbs.

Many Pakistanis, left with only state television, have turned to the internet and satellite broadcasts for news.

Authorities responded by stopping the sale of satellite dishes in some cities while on Tuesday the import of satellite dishes and related equipment was banned.

Authorities have not tried to control news from the internet.


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