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Pakistan 28 April 2006

Authorities block access to Baluch nationalist sites

Reporters Without Borders today condemned a decision by the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) on 25 April to block four Baluch nationalist websites for carrying “misleading information.” The move comes two months after the PTA blocked access to 12 websites displaying the controversial Mohammed cartoons.

“Only a judge should be able to order the filtering of a online publication,” the press freedom organisation said. “The PTA should not have this power, as it is an administrative entity directly linked to the government.”

The PTA’s closure order cites four Baluch sites and a Hindu site, hinduunity.com, that is very hostile towards Muslims. The four Baluch sites are balochvoice.com (which carries news about the fighting in Baluchistan as well as international media reports), baloch2000.org and balochfront.com (which support the Baluch nationalists), and sanabaloch.com (a Baluch politician’s site).

While the PTA decree accuses the sites of containing misleading information, a PTA official referred to the sites as having “ties” with Baluch nationalist leaders and said the decision to ban them was reached jointly with the government.

The PTA blocked 12 sites including blogger.com on 28 February for carrying the Mohammed cartoons that were first published in Denmark. This decision was never endorsed by a court.

Meanwhile, there is still no word of Munir Mengal, the head of Baluchi-language TV station Baloch Voice, who disappeared on arriving in Karachi on 7 April. His family thinks military intelligence officers kidnapped him at the airport.

A southwestern province with 5.6 million ethnic Baluchis, Baluchistan has seen sporadic fighting for several years between the Pakistani army and armed nationalists who want independence. It is very hard for journalists to work there.


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