ISLAMABAD, Pakistan – President Pervez Musharraf, the embattled military leader of Pakistan, sharply tightened restrictions Monday on the nation’s broadcast media.
The move was the latest signal that Gen. Musharraf intends to respond to a wave of popular unrest by cracking down on perceived foes rather than acceding to calls that he step aside or allow fair elections to be held.
Musharraf’s administration has increasingly sought to limit television coverage of large anti-government rallies across the country, which has been avidly followed by many ordinary Pakistanis.
The tightening restrictions on Pakistani media mark a major reversal for Musharraf, who had previously ushered in greater freedom for newspapers and broadcast outlets.
Under the new media rules, which were set forth in an emergency ordinance signed into law by the president on Monday, broadcasters can lose their licenses, have their premises sealed and be fined more than $160,000 for violating government directives.
Journalists, together with members of opposition parties and other activists, staged a rally Monday evening to protest the new measures.
Hundreds took part in a march from the offices of the Geo channel to the parliament building in central Islamabad. “Musharraf, we don’t accept your laws!” they chanted.
Police kept watch but did not attempt to intervene.