The head of Geo TV, Pakistan’s largest television network, says the company's broadcasts have been blocked throughout much of the country, The New York Times and media watchdogs report.
“We are off the air in 80 percent of the country,” Geo TV Chief Executive Mir Ibrahim Rahman was quoted as saying on April 5 by The New York Times.
The reports said Geo TV broadcasts were also blocked during the first week of March in areas and residential neighborhoods controlled by Pakistan's military.
Although critics have speculated that Pakistan's military was behind the moves, Geo TV officials did not publicly blame military authorities for the disruptions.
The New York Times said Pakistan's Defense Ministry did not respond to requests for comment.
"The action against Geo is being seen as an unmistakable message from the country’s generals that they would accept no negative reporting" ahead of the July general elections, The Times reported.
The Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) insisted it is not behind the move, and has issued a notice for cable operators not to disrupt Geo TV transmissions.
Meanwhile, Geo TV was running a notice on its website on April 6 that provides a Lahore telephone number for viewers who are unable to access broadcasts to lodge complaints.
The network's broadcasts were still available on April 6 through its Internet live stream channel and on YouTube.
On April 3, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) expressed concern over reports that Geo TV was not accessible throughout many parts of the country, “despite government assertions that authorities have taken no steps to block it.”
The CPJ quoted Geo TV Managing Director Azhar Abbas as saying the network has “faced arbitrary blockages” and changing channel numbers for several years but the latest moves were the worst barriers it has experienced.
"This is an attempt to financially cripple the organization into submission," Aslam told The Dawn newsapper.
Geo TV was established in 2002 and is owned by the Independent Media Corporation, one of Pakistan's largest media conglomerates.
The Independent Media Corporation also owns the Jang Group of Newspapers -- which includes the Urdu-language Daily Jang newspaper, as well as The News International, and Mag Weekly.
The Geo TV network includes news, entertainment, and sports channels.
"Geo" is an urdu word meaning "live."
With reporting by The New York Times, Dawn, and Pakistan Today