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Pakistan's Musharraf Suspends Media Crackdown

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Pakistan's Musharraf Suspends Media Crackdown


Pakistan's Musharraf Suspends Media Crackdown

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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Rebecca Roberts, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Rebecca Roberts.


And I'm Robert Siegel.

Pakistan's military ruler, Pervez Musharraf, has made his first significant concession to his opponents. He's in the middle of a political crisis that's threatening his hold on power, and he has now suspended, pending review, an emergency ordinance tightening control over Pakistan's electronic media.

There have also been more anti-Musharraf rallies, as NPR's Philip Reeves reports.

PHILIP REEVES: This is Lahore, the pulsating capital of Punjab, Pakistan's largest province. Demonstrations against Musharraf are now a weekly ritual here. People have grown used to traffics now as protesters pour onto the streets. They're used to lawyers dressed in crumpled black suits and ties parading through the sweltering city center. They're used to men bellowing into bullhorns, demanding the reinstatement of Pakistan's suspended chief justice and the exit of the man who sought to sack him, Pervez Musharraf.

But today, there's a new item on the agenda.

Ms. KUNDIL SADEK(ph) (Journalist, Geo TV): I got two things. One says, no person or authority has the right to intervene in the freedom of the press.

REEVES: Kundil Sadek from Pakistan's Geo TV is among a throng of journalists blocking a main road through Lahore. She's heard the latest news - the announcement by Pakistan's information minister of the suspension of an emergency ordinance issued by Musharraf earlier this week clamping down on the electronic media.

She is not convinced the threat's lifted, so she still wants to make her views felt.

Ms. SADEK: These rallies, these protests are the outburst. The outburst, which is caused - because of the lack of communication. If the government, if the policies are communicated fairly and equally to the community, then there would be less unrest.

REEVES: Musharraf's widely credited with allowing the growth of a free and independent media in Pakistan. The emergency ordinance was a step in the opposite direction. The move's backfired. Musharraf's opponents today were unanimous that cracking down on the media - a tactic they see as a brazen attempt to stop them covering opposition rallies and criticizing Pakistan's military rule - only serves to strengthen them.

Unidentified Group: (Urdu spoken)

REEVES: The lawyers are delighted. Today, they convened a seminar at Lahore High Court on the importance of a free press.

The ranks of protestors have long included lawyers, human rights activists and assorted political opposition parties. Now, journalists are joining in.

Suspending the ordinance might ease the pressure on Musharraf on that front, but the pressure is building elsewhere. Rumors are circulating that he will respond to the crisis by imposing a state of emergency. The U.S., though worried, has so far avoided strong criticism on Musharraf who's a close ally. Today, the international crisis group joined those calling on Washington to take a much tougher stance by making it clear that emergency rule will be unacceptable, and by demanding free and fair elections in Pakistan by the year's end.

Unidentified Man: (Urdu spoken)

REEVES: This idea found favor on Lahore's streets today. Khalida Abed(ph), a lawyer, is among the many Pakistanis who want a shift in U.S. strategy.

Ms. KHALIDA ABED (Lawyer): America should pressure Musharraf. He should let the - all the parties come and participate in fair elections, fair and free elections, and then he will - we will see the bright future of Pakistan.

REEVES: Philip Reeves, NPR News, Lahore.

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