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Media regulatory authority orders FM radio stations to stop broadcasting BBC news bulletins

(PPF/IFEX) - 29 October 2009 - The Pakistan Electronic Media Regularity Authority (PEMRA) has directed a number of FM radio stations to stop broadcasting BBC news bulletins on the grounds that they violated the terms of their licenses.

In a letter issued to FM radio stations on 26 October 2009, PEMRA said that the broadcasting of BBC news bulletins was "in sheer disregard of the relevant laws."

Haroon Rashid, the acting editor for BBC News in Pakistan, told PPF that BBC news bulletins were being broadcast by about 30 FM partners in the country. PEMRA has stopped the BBC broadcasts on about 15 FM stations. Rashid said that the reason was that PEMRA required the documents of agreement with the BBC from the FM partners but that the stations had failed to submit them. Some of the stations that stopped broadcasting BBC news bulletins include FM Hum, FM 103, FM 107, FM 91 Kasur- Okara, FM Highway and FM Gujrat.

Rashid also said that he talked to Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira on 29 October and received assurances that the minister will take up the matter with PEMRA to reverse the ban as soon as possible. The BBC editor added that the FM stations in question have now submitted the agreement documents to PEMRA and are awaiting a response from PEMRA.

PPF is of the opinion that asking radio stations to suspend the dissemination of news from an international broadcaster constitutes a serious breach of freedom of expression. The organisation also believes that PEMRA could have resorted to other options rather than directing the radio stations to abruptly stop broadcasting the BBC news.

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