Why are local radio stations banned from retransmitting BBC news bulletins?

Published on 1 June 2010

Reporters Without Borders calls on the federal government to reverse its decision to ban 24 local FM radio stations from broadcasting the BBC World Service’s news bulletins in Urdu. Following the lifting of censorship of Facebook and YouTube, it is hard to understand why millions of Pakistani listeners are being deprived of the BBC’s bulletins.

The press freedom organisation also urges federal information minister Qamaruz Zaman to explain why the government thinks these broadcasts should be blocked.

“The censorship of these BBC news bulletins primarily affects the right of Pakistanis to receive news and information,” Reporters Without Borders said. ““It is all the more unacceptable that the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) and the information ministry have provided no plausible information about the reasons that led them to take this decision.”

The press freedom organisation added: “We should not forget that the last time that censorship was imposed on BBC news bulletins was on 3 November 2007, in other words, under Gen. Pervez Musharraf’s military government.”

Twenty-four local radio stations had to stop retransmitting the BBC’s Urdu-language news bulletins on 27 April because they lacked written permission from the information ministry. The bulletins are normally broadcast every hour and last five minutes.

Only 10 radio stations, located in the province of Punjab, have the permits that allow them to continue retransmitting the bulletins. The stations that have been censored are all located in the northwestern province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.