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Pakistan 17 March 2006

Two Afghan TV stations banned from broadcasting in Baluchistan

Reporters Without Borders today condemned Pakistan’s ban on two Afghan cable TV stations, Tolo TV and Ariana TV, broadcasting in the southwestern province of Baluchistan and called on the information minister to see it was lifted at once.

The Pakistan broadcasting authority forbade local cable operators on 16 March to retransmit the two stations, which had suggested that a recent suicide attack on an Afghan politician in Kabul may have involved the Pakistani intelligence service.

“These media outlets were simply doing their job of informing the public,” the worldwide press freedom organisation said. “Press freedom cannot be at the mercy of political tensions between Islamabad and Kabul.” Tolo TV was winner of the 2005 Reporters Without Borders - Fondation de France prize.

Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) official Abdul Jalal Khan accused the stations of using “poisonous and undiplomatic” language and said they were banned for spreading “negative propaganda against Pakistan.”

Pemra spokesman Mohammed Shahid refused to confirm the ban but said the stations had not applied for permission to broadcast in Pakistan.

Tolo TV said the station had always tried to report regional, nation and international events in a balanced way and would continue to put out impartial, good-quality news even if it concerned local authorities. The privately-owned station, set up in October 2004, has done wide-ranging investigative reporting, unlike government-run stations.

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