January 21, 2008 / 1:49 PM / in 10 years

Pakistan's private Geo TV back on air

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - Broadcasts of Pakistan’s private Geo television network resumed in Pakistan on Monday more than two-and-half months after its transmission was blocked following the imposition of a state of emergency.

Geo News and its sister sports channel came back on the air at 6 p.m. (1300 GMT), hours after President Pervez Musharraf began a four-country trip to Europe where he expected to face tough questions on media curbs and human rights.

Geo was the last channel to come back on the air of several that were blocked when Musharraf imposed emergency rule on November 3, citing rising militancy and a meddling judiciary.

Musharraf lifted the emergency in mid-December but Geo, which made a name for itself with hard-hitting political talk shows, remained blocked on cable channels.

Its broadcasts out of Dubai were available on satellite and via the Internet, although authorities in the United Arab Emirates had blocked its satellite broadcasts for several weeks in November and December.

Geo officials were not immediately available for comment but a government minister said on Sunday the channel’s broadcasts had been given the go-ahead after it signed a government code of conduct.

“Once they signed the code of conduct, like everybody else, we have no problem,” said Information Minister Nisar Memon.

The network’s two entertainment channels were restored on the cable in Pakistan in the third week of December, but its news and sports channels remained shut until they were restored on Monday.

Spurred by new technology and unrestrained by censors, Pakistan’s media, in particular television, has flourished over recent years with dozens of new channels springing up.

Musharraf, who took power in a 1999 coup, had hailed the liberated media as one of his government’s main achievements.

But relations between Musharraf and the independent media began to sour in March when he tried to dismiss the country’s chief justice, unleashing a storm of protest from lawyers and the pro-democracy opposition.

Musharraf has accused some television channels of adding to the political uncertainty that led him to impose emergency rule.

But critics said the state of emergency was aimed at neutralizing legal challenges to Musharraf’s moves to secure a new five-year term as president in an October election by legislators while he was still army chief.

Editing by Robert Birsel

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