- 8 pages
- For Official Use Only
- June 2, 2010
Aaj News Television (Aaj) is one of Pakistan’s major 24/7 cable news stations. It covers national events and issues as well as international developments through straight reporting and news and current affairs programs.
- Aaj offers extensive coverage of the US-led war on terrorism, including criticism of it as well as of other US policies.
- Aaj also carries a unique program, “Washington Report,” which seems aimed at building a positive image of the United States, especially with respect to US foreign policy.
- Like other major channels, Aaj provides broad coverage of the statements and activities of opposition leaders and parties.
- In its religious programming, Aaj allows room for enlightened and mainstream ideas, but also extremist ideas that were put forward, for example, by the late hard-line scholar Israr Ahmed who used Islamic eschatology to criticize the United States.
- Aaj’s coverage of India-related issues offers harsh criticism of Indian policies toward Pakistan both in reporting and comment.
Former Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz formally launched Aaj News Television in Karachi on 21 May 2005 (www.dawn.com/2005/05/22/top3.htm, website of leading mainstream English daily Karachi Dawn, 22 May 2005). According to its website (www.aaj.tv), it has fully equipped bureaus in Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad, making Aaj the first private channel to broadcast from inside Pakistan. Aaj also has “an Earth Station in Pakistan that broadcasts directly to the AsiaSat satellite with a footprint of over 60 countries.” Aaj offers “well defined programming blocks” of news, current affairs, infotainment, and entertainment. It has collaboration agreements with “partner news sources in more than 100 countries.”
Like other major private TV channels, Aaj faces official restrictions. Past examples have included a ban on broadcasts and talk shows that criticized the incumbent government — led by the Pakistan People’s Party — or that advocated an independent judiciary during the lawyers’ movement against former President Musharraf, who had ordered the channel’s cable transmission blocked after he imposed emergency rule on 3 November 2007. The channel came back on the air two weeks later after it signed an official Code of Conduct and closed down two popular political talk shows hosted by leading journalists Talat Hussain and the duo of Nusrat Javed and Mushtaq Minhas. The talk shows were restored in early 2008.
Since the second half of 2008, Aaj, like other major television channels, also has stopped airing statements by Taliban leaders. In November 2009, in fact, Aaj joined the country’s other leading TV channels and agreed on a “voluntary framework” to standardize “professional guidelines regarding terrorism coverage … The news managers decided that they will desist from showing graphic and disturbing images on the screen, and as and when required, utilize a delay mechanism in their transmissions” (http://www.thenews.com.pk/print3.asp?id=25416, website of influential mainstream English daily Islamabad The News Online, 6 Nov 2009). Aaj has mostly followed this policy, with a few exceptions, since the agreement was reached. Aaj has been severely criticized for its programming by the Pakistani public on a number of occasions the past several years. The criticism has led to several violent attacks on Aaj facilities.
- The channel’s Karachi offices were attacked on 12 May 2007 when workers of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement — a Sindh-based ethnic political party — fired at the Aaj offices in Karachi for airing live shots of its members engaging in violent activities in the vicinity that day. Leading English daily Karachi Dawn reported on 13 May 2007 that “armed men attacked the office of a private television channel and set on fire more than a dozen vehicles in its parking lot here on Saturday [ 12 May]. The Aaj TV was telecasting live footage of youths brandishing guns in front of its offices on the Business Recorder Road … As the telecast continued, the youths turned their guns on the Aaj TV building … ‘The Aaj TV building came under fire from MQM supporters who wanted the airing of live footage of the unrest in the city stopped,’ the network’s chief executive Arshad Zubairi was quoted as saying.”