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Pakistan cracks down on media outlets’ coverage of militants

November 2, 2015

Pakistani authorities on Monday called on broadcasters to refrain from covering dozens of banned insurgent groups, including an organisation allegedly tied to the 2008 Mumbai attacks, as officials widen their crackdown against militants inside the country.

The order follows the introduction earlier this year of the “National Action Plan” aimed at reining in militancy inside the country after Taliban gunmen massacred more than 150 people at a school in Peshawar in late 2014.

The directive issued by the Pakistan Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) prohibits broadcasters from covering the activities of 72 different outlawed groups, including Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD), the charitable wing of the Pakistani militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT).

The LeT has been blamed for carrying out the attacks in the Indian financial capital in 2008 that killed 166 people.

“All satellite TV channels/FM radio licences are therefore strictly directed not to give any kind of coverage to any proscribed organisation including Jamaat-ud-Dawa, Falah-i-Insaniat Foundation, Lashkar-e-Taiba,” PEMRA said.

The Falah-i-Insaniat Foundation is tied to the JuD and has participated in flood and earthquake relief in recent years, including operations following last week’s 7.5 magnitude quake that killed 272 people in Pakistan.

The regulatory body said media organisations must refrain from broadcasting any advertisement calling for donations to banned organisations.

The directive also prohibits outlets from broadcasting any programme that could potentially incite violence or is prejudicial to the maintenance of law and order.

PEMRA added that non-compliance would invoke legal action that could result in fines or the potential termination of a broadcaster’s licence.

The order was issued following the review of the 20-point National Action Plan.

Pakistan has long been accused of playing a “double game” with militants by supporting groups it thinks it can use for its own strategic ends, particularly in disputed Kashmir.

Kashmir has been divided between India and Pakistan since the end of British colonial rule in 1947. But both claim the restive Himalayan territory in its entirety and have fought two of their three wars over Kashmir.

Dispatches from AFP concerning freedom of information, censorship and news coverage in regions where independent media is under threat.