Sun, Nov 11, 2007 - Page 5 News List

Tech-savvy news teams circumvent Pakistani blocks

ALL IN A DAY'S WORK Despite a government-imposed media blackout, journalists in Pakistan are taking more extreme measures to make sure the news gets out


One solution has been to send several analysts and political activists to Dubai, so programs could continue to be churned out. Though the anchors refrain from editorializing, the opposition view in this way continues to get out.

"We are fighting that our screen should not be empty, we cannot go black," said Mir, who sees Musharraf's stranglehold of the media as a sign of his imminent demise. "I can tell you from past experience. This is a last desperate attempt to save himself."

But perhaps the most dramatic changes in recent years have come with greater access to the Internet, said Rehmat, putting the number of users at around 5 million.

"With several people in each house having access as well, the real number is probably closer to 13 million, and that's a huge number," he said, noting that there are also around 70 million mobile phone users, further speeding the spread of news, mostly by text message.

Geo TV started live video streaming as soon as Musharraf ordered the media stranglehold.

The number of simultaneous users immediately jumped from 100,000 to more than 300,000, forcing the Web site to go "light," by removing all other content except for text updates, said Asif Latif, the Web master at Geo's Karachi headquarters.

"We were completely flooded," he said, adding that at times more than 700,000 hits are tallied.

But reporters say the crackdown has only emboldened them.

"If anything, it's given me more courage," said 27-year-old Chaudhry, one of the few female journalists in Pakistan who goes to the front lines to cover the crisis.

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