ISLAMABAD: Pakistans top electronic media regulator ordered private television channels to go off air on Saturday during a crackdown on religious protesters in Islamabad.
The suspension was ordered by the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) for violating media regulations showing live coverage of the security operation in Faizabad. The authority also advised media houses to ensure safety and security of their field staff.
Social media platforms Facebook, Twitter and YouTube were also blocked on web browsers across the country.
A Pemra spokesperson told the Express Tribune that Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi had directed the regulator to suspend transmission of all private TV channels.
Abbasi issued the directives on the request of the Islamabad administration which said live coverage was compromising the operation against the religious protesters. The state-run PTV continued to broadcast, but aired a talk show discussing politics.
A policeman was killed and over 200 people were injured on Saturday as the security forces moved to disperse the religious sit-in that has virtually paralysed the country´s capital for almost three weeks.
The protests had erupted after the Pakistani Parliament approved an amendment to the electoral law earlier, removing an oath public servants had to take before assuming office, reiterating their belief in Prophet Muhammad.
The amendment was deemed a "clerical error" by the government and was rectified. But the protesters still demand the resignation of Law Minister Zahid Hamid for his alleged role in the controversy.
The protesters had been camping on the main highway that connects Islamabad to the city of Rawalpindi causing huge traffic snarls that led to the closure of some schools in the capital.
Security forces resorted to rubber-bullets after the protesters put up the resistance. The law enforcement agencies lobbed tear gas shells and used water cannons to disperse the crowd. In return, the demonstrators pelted stones on the security personnel.
At least 370 protesters were taken into custody, said police officials. At least 10 motorcycles and two vehicles were torched during the operation.