BBC World Service news programmes blocked in Nepal and Pakistan
21 April, 2005
RSF has expressed concern over the recent blocking of BBC World Service news programmes in Nepal and Pakistan and urged governments in Kathmandu and Islamabad to allow them to resume as soon as possible.
"After years of liberalisation, this act of censorship is a step backward for radio news in South Asia. In fact, in the region, only India has still not granted licences allowing FM radio stations to broadcast foreign news programmes," RSF noted.
On 22 March 2005, state-run Radio Nepal stopped airing BBC World Service news programmes without explanation, replacing the English-language news bulletins with music. BBC World Service programmes had started airing in November 2004 after a contract was signed between the BBC and Radio Nepal.
Since 1 February, news programmes have been banned on some 50 Nepalese radio stations, which are only authorised to broadcast entertainment programmes.
In Pakistan, on 2 March, the BBC World Service was forced to cease relaying its Urdu-language news programmes to Karachi, Lahore, Multan and Faisalabad via Mast FM103 radio station. The Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA), a government body responsible for regulating broadcast media, threatened to take action against Mast FM103 for allegedly breaking the conditions of its licence by airing BBC news bulletins.
Mast FM103 management lodged an application at a Lahore court, seeking the lifting of the ban. No decision was reached at the first hearing on 14 April. The lawyer for the defence, Raza Kazim, stressed the quality of BBC news programmes and noted that no complaints had been registered about the broadcasts. The judge suggested that PEMRA take Mast FM103's proposals under consideration, which may signal a favourable outcome at the next hearing, due on 5 May.
The Indian government, for its part, has never granted licences allowing news programmes to be relayed to Indian or foreign radio stations. Only the government station All India Radio is allowed to broadcast news on FM.