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Media regulatory authority warns foreign channels over unauthorised satellite uplinking

(PPF/IFEX) - 9 May 2011 - On 6 May 2011, the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) issued notices to nine foreign channels for illegal uplinking of live news coverage, asking them to explain their position on airing news from Abbottabad without lawful authority. Abbottabad, a city in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, has been a focal point for global and local broadcasters since a U.S. raid on a compound in the city killed Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden on 2 May.

According to press reports, the notices were served on Fox News, NBC News, Cable News Network (CNN), British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), CNS News, IBN, Al-Jazeera TV, Voice of America (VOA) and Sky TV for violating the PEMRA Act. All the channels were told to stop unauthorised uplinking immediately.

Wakeel Khan, General Manager (Technical) under whose signature the notices were issued, told Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF) that foreign channels were violating Section 31 of the PEMRA Act 2007. As per that section, any foreign channel must seek prior permission for a temporary uplink in order to directly air an event or incident from Pakistan. The authority may issue permission in writing to any party to carry out temporary uplinking from a ground transmission facility to a satellite to transmit any event live from Pakistan for a specific period of time.

Khan further said that CNN, NBC News, CNS News and VOA had applied for temporary uplinking facility. PEMRA is considering their request and will respond soon.

Haroon Rasheed, Editor of BBC Pakistan, told PPF that they had still not received the PEMRA notice. He said they had not received any direction from BBC London to suspend the transmission so they were continuing transmission as per usual.

Pakistan Federal Information Minister Firdous Aashiq Awan said the suspension was temporary and an inquiry had been launched to ascertain why the foreign channels were using uplinking facilities without prior mandatory permission from the PEMRA. She further said that the immediate suspension of signals of these international news channels had been made to uphold PEMRA rules.

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has condemned the issuance of notices and urged the Pakistani government to immediately rescind its decision disallowing foreign broadcasters to conduct live transmissions from Abbottabad.

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