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Last Updated: Tuesday, 6 November 2007, 14:52 GMT
Pakistanis slake thirst for news
Protests against media restrictions, Islamabad, 2007
Media curbs have angered journalists
The Pakistani authorities' ban on TV news channels has forced Pakistanis to turn elsewhere for their information.

With cable transmissions halted since the President Pervez Musharraf declared a state of emergency on Saturday, people are switching to satellite and the internet, as well as older forms of media such as radio and newspapers.

Dish sales rise

A sudden rush to buy satellite dish receivers has been noted by some Pakistani newspapers, with the price of a complete kit jumping from $130 (60) to upwards of $180 (85).

A salesman in Multan said he had taken 30 orders in a day, as opposed to one or two a week before the emergency.

For those addicted to the 24-hour news previously provided by the 15-20 local and international cable channels, there is the option of the internet. All the major Pakistani news channels, such as Geo, ARY and Dawn News, are streaming their output live and report increased rates of usage.

Meanwhile, bloggers at home and abroad have been posting news, analysis and opinion, and discussion forums have attracted wide-ranging comment.

Bloggers appear to be free to post comments on General Musharraf's actions.

Blog aggregator site Global Voices has set up a special page to cover the emergency, while the "bloggers.pk" site is dominated by posts on the state of emergency, in English and Urdu.

Return to radio

However, internet usage, although growing fast, is still limited to only a few million of the population of more than 160 million.

One report said people had turned to foreign radio stations that broadcast in Urdu. Opposition politicians said they had dug out their "old and abandoned" radio sets and shop owners reported that sales of radio sets and batteries had quadrupled.

The BBC, which has extended its daily Urdu broadcasts from two hours to three, attracted the "vast majority" of listeners, the report said.

Boost for newspapers

Newspapers have also benefited from the thirst for information. A vendor in Karachi said sales had doubled since the start of the emergency; one report said circulation had been boosted by the "unprecedented demand" for news.

Newspapers have revived the practice of publishing special supplements, which had all but died out after the advent of private TV news channels.

In Karachi, police raided the offices of Jang, Pakistan's largest publishing group, in an unsuccessful attempt to prevent publication of a special supplement.

Relatives overseas are another key source of information. Because broadcasts of private Pakistani TV channels outside the country have not been disrupted, overseas Pakistanis are able to update their relatives at home on what the channels are reporting.

What is noticeable amongst all this is a reluctance to rely on state-run PTV as the sole source of information.

During the unfolding events of this year, Pakistanis have got used to the private channels' coverage and analysis. And even now, while these channels are unavailable to most of the population, government ministers are still appearing on them to explain their positions.

BBC Monitoring selects and translates news from radio, television, press, news agencies and the internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages. It is based in Caversham, UK, and has several bureaux abroad.





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