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Television stations in Balochistan suspended by cable operators following threats

(PPF/IFEX) - Urdu-language television stations available via cable were suspended in Quetta, the capital city, and other parts of Balochistan province by the Cable Operators Association on 1 February 2012, after the cable operators received threats from the Baloch Student Organisation-Muhiuddin (BSO-M) and the Balochistan National Party-Mengal (BNP). Balochistan has been confronted with a low level separatist insurgency carried out by Baloch nationalists, who say they have become increasingly frustrated by the lack of attention being paid by the national media to their grievances.

Babark Khan, president of the Balochistan Cable Operators Association, told the Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF) that he received a threatening letter in writing from the BSO-M on 31 January, calling for the transmission of Urdu-language television stations to be halted or there would be consequences. Khan said the cable operators suspended broadcasts of the Urdu-language television stations because they feared for their lives. However, the transmission of Balochi, Pashto and Sinhi-language stations, as well as stations originating in India, were not suspended, he said.

Khan noted that the government had promised to provide protection but that only two police officers were sent for their 13 offices in Quetta. "I do not know how long the protest will last but one thing is clear - we will not restore Urdu transmissions until complete security is provided to us by the government," he said.

Akhter Mengal, president of the BNP, told PPF that Baloch citizens have disappeared and their decomposed bodies are being recovered on a daily basis, while targeted killings of political workers and leaders are on the rise, but that the media channels were not highlighting these issues. He said they are completely ignoring the dire problems being faced by the Baloch people.

According to press reports, the BSO-M and BNP had, in a press conference on 30 January, threatened to suspend broadcasts of privately-owned, Urdu-language television stations throughout the province and Baloch-dominated areas in Karachi to protest against the "discriminatory attitude" of news channels towards Balochistan. They alleged that the Urdu stations were not highlighting the violations of human rights in Balochistan.

Television stations in Quetta, Mastung, Kalat, Khuzdar, Naushki and other districts of the province were suspended.

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