KARACHI, May 5: Three television news channels went off the air on Saturday afternoon, depriving viewers in Karachi and southern Sindh of the live coverage of the caravan of Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry proceeding to Lahore from Islamabad.

The transmission of the channels — Geo, ARY and Aaj — was suspended in Karachi, Hyderabad and Nawabshah at about 5:30pm. In a few areas of Karachi, the channels could be watched after about two hours.

People called newspaper offices to inquire about the disruption and most of them blamed the government.

Officials of the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) denied any instructions had been issued to stop the transmission of the channels.

They said that these channels were not seen only in southern parts of Sindh, and if Pemra had issued any instructions the transmission would have been blocked all over the country.

According to APP, Pemra Chairman Iftikhar Rashid denied any involvement of the regulatory authority or any department of the government in the reported termination of transmission in some parts of Sindh.

Some cable operators claimed that a technical problem in their system had affected the transmission of the three channels in Karachi, Hyderabad and Nawabshah. “Efforts are being made to remove the problem,” All Pakistan Cable Operators’ Association vice-chairman Khalid Arain said.

However, some people accused a political party in the ruling coalition of having forced cable operators to stop transmission of the channels.

In a related development, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement denied having played any role in the blocking of the transmission.

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, Karachi Union of Journalists and Association of TV Journalists have criticised actions taken by the government against private TV channels and harassment of cable operators.

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