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Pak radio closed down for BBC quake re-telecast

The Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) has closed down Karachi-based radio station Mast FM 103 for retransmitting a BBC World Service programme in Urdu about Pakistan's recent earthquake. The station was charged with violating PEMRA by-laws. PEMRA officials assisted by the local police raided the FM 103 radio station and seized its transponders, antennae and other broadcast equipment.


Survivors of the October 8 quake carry bricks made from the rubble to build their house, at a refugee camp in Muzaffarabad, Pakistan, Thursday, November 10, 2005. Doctors rushed Thursday to retrace the journey of a suspected diphtheria sufferer to a tent camp for the earthquake survivors in Kashmir, hoping to stave off a potential outbreak, while Pakistan's army appealed for more blankets and food for quake victims. (AP Photo/Achmad Ibrahim)

According to a report in the Dawn, a representative of the radio station said PEMRA officials with police raided the station and misbehaved with the staff. The police officials used abusive language and seized the equipment forcing the FM 103 to close down its broadcast. He said PEMRA officials had alleged that the radio station had provided its medium to relay the broadcast of a foreign-based radio channel.

He said, according to the report, FM 103 had been broadcasting news from an international radio service but after PEMRA intervened into the matter, the relaying of news was stopped. However, a programme on analyses and views relating to the 10/8 earthquake of the foreign-based radio was being broadcast through FM 103.

A senior PEMRA official, on condition of anonymity, told Dawn the radio station had been involved in infringement of by-laws of PEMRA. He said: "We had earlier taken action against the radio station when it had been relaying news of a foreign channel but the management of the station approached a high court."

He said the orders of the court were clear and according to them, no radio station could broadcast news or programmes of a foreign channel. "The radio station was violating the rules and we have taken action against it", he added.

The matter was brought to the notice of Federal Information Minister Shaikh Rashid who told Dawn that PEMRA rules were clear about telecast of a foreign channel programme through local radio stations. He said: "It is illegal according to the rules and no radio station can do that. I have asked the authority concerned to take an undertaking from the radio station in question and return the seized equipment to it."

Paris-based press freedom organisation Reporters sans Frontières (RSF) described it as a "disproportionate" sanction, and called on the authorities to allow the station to resume broadcasting at once. It also condemned the fact that two Pakistani satellite TV stations, Rang and Vibe, have been threatened with sanctions if they do not stop carrying "foreign programmes."


Pakistani earthquake survivors carry tents they picked up from a military camp, as they walk back to their homes during the rain, Thursday, November 10, 2005 in Balakot, Pakistan. The magnitude 7.6 quake, centred in divided Kashmir, destroyed the homes of more than 3 million people. Survivors have converged on tent camps, some with poor sanitation, sparking new health dangers. (AP Photo/Shakil Adil)

"It is true these radio and TV stations do not have appropriate licences but all they did was exercise their right to inform," RSF said. "By preventing the Pakistani media from using quality news programmes, the regulatory authorities are applying archaic regulations without considering listeners' and viewers' interests."

The authorities said they acted after the station retransmitted a special programme on the recent earthquake in northern Pakistan that had been produced by the Urdu-language section of the BBC World Service.

"We have already taken measures against the station in the past for broadcasting foreign programmes," Dawn quoted a PEMRA official as saying. "But the management went to the courts and the high court's orders were clear � no radio station may broadcast this kind of programme. The station broke the law and we had to close it."

The BBC World Service was forced in March to put an end to the re-transmission of its Urdu-language news bulletins by Mast FM 103 in Karachi, Lahore, Multan and Faisalabad. The PEMRA had threatened the station with sanctions at the time.

Date posted: November 20, 2005 Date modified: May 23, 2018 Total views: 6