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Pakistan's Musharraf Suspends Media Crackdown

Pakistan's military ruler, Pervez Musharraf, has made his first significant concession to his opponents since the start of the political crisis now threatening his rule. Government officials say an emergency ordinance tightening control over Pakistan's electronic media, issued earlier this week by Musharraf, has been suspended pending a review.

The announcement came on another day of demonstrations in Pakistan, weeks after Musharraf tried to suspend the nation's chief justice, Iftikhar Chaudhry. The latest protests took place Wednesday in Lahore, where activists were arrested in advance of the demonstration.

Musharraf has been widely credited with allowing the growth of a free and independent media in Pakistan. But the emergency ordinance is a step in the opposite direction. It allows government regulators, without review, to close down broadcasting organizations who they decide have broken the laws.

The move has backfired. Musharraf's opponents were unanimous Thursday in the view that cracking down on the media — a move they see as a brazen attempt to stop them covering opposition rallies and criticizing Pakistan's military rule — only serves to strengthen them.

Thursday, lawyers convened a seminar at Lahore's high court, to discuss the importance of a free media.

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Philip Reeves is an award-winning international correspondent covering South America. Previously, he served as NPR's correspondent covering Pakistan, Afghanistan, and India.
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