Pakistan went to the polls today, with between 19 and 27 dead in election-related violence, and counting has begun. Musharraf has ordered a media clampdown, preventing all except official government reporting from being broadcast:
Feb. 18 (Bloomberg) -- Pakistan's private broadcasters are barred from reporting independently on the country's parliamentary elections today after the government imposed curbs on coverage, amid rigging allegations by opposition parties.
``We are being told to report what the government wants us to report,'' Mazhar Abbas, the secretary of the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists, said in a phone interview. ``We have never ever experienced such harsh restrictions.''
Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority, the government's regulator, yesterday prohibited television stations from reporting progressive results and interviewing candidates until the end of polling at 5 p.m. local time. Channels were also barred from live coverage of political parties, it said in a statement from Malik Mushtaq, chairman of the regulator.
The new rules come after the government ordered all Pakistani news channels off air when President Pervez Musharraf imposed emergency rule on Nov. 3 for six weeks. Today's election is the first nationwide vote since competing private channels were allowed to start broadcasting, ending the government's monopoly over broadcast news.
``It is controlled freedom of the press,'' said Abbas. While television channels violating the new rules risk going off air, some broadcasters will ignore the orders, he said.