Pakistan Imposes Ban on Media Coverage of Terror Groups

JuD in Pakistan AP
Washington, D.C.

Pakistani authorities issued a directive prohibiting broadcasters from covering the activities of dozens of terrorist groups, including Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), an organization that has been linked to the 2008 attacks in Mumbai, India.

The ban, issued by the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA), comes as officials expand their crackdown against terrorists in the country.

It “follows the introduction earlier this year of the National Action Plan [NAP] aimed at reining in militancy inside the country after Taliban gunmen massacred more than 150 people at the Army Public School in Peshawar in late 2014,” notes The News International.

The move also comes days after Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif informed President Obama that Pakistan is determined to combat UN-designated terrorist individuals and entities, including LeT and its affiliates, in accordance with its international commitments and obligations under UN Security Council resolutions.

Under the media ban, Pakistani broadcasters were ordered to refrain from covering the activities of “72 different outlawed groups,” including LeT and its affiliates the Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) and Falah-e-Insaniyat (FIF).

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

“The Jamaat-ud-Dawa and Falah-e-Insaniat Foundation are the other wings of Lashkar-e-Taiba,” added the notification, marking the first time Pakistan admits that JuD and FIF are LeT affiliates, notes Mint news.

Pakistan had initially ruled out the possibility of banning JuD, reportedly maintaining that there is no evidence to tie the organization with terrorism and the outlawed LeT, points out The Hindu.

LeT and its affiliates have officially been designated terrorist groups by the United States and the United Nations.

The terrorist group LeT has been accused of carrying out the 2008 attacks that left at least 166 people dead in Mumbai, the Indian financial capital.

Hafiz Saeed has been identified as the founder of  LeT by the U.S. State Department, which is offering a $10 million reward for information leading to the his arrest or conviction.

PEMRA said media outlets “must refrain from broadcasting any advertisement calling for donations to banned organizations. The directive also prohibits outlets from broadcasting any program that could potentially incite violence or is prejudicial to the maintenance of law and order,” points out The News.

The media regulatory authority reportedly added that “non-compliance would invoke legal action that could result in fines or the potential termination of a broadcaster’s license.”

In October, the United States, soon after President Obama held a meeting with PM Sharif, urged Pakistan to take action against all terrorist groups without discriminating.

“We welcome Pakistan’s commitment as part of the National Action Plan not to discriminate amongst terrorist groups,” Eric Schultz, the White House deputy press secretary, told reporters as Obama and Sharif wrapped up their wide-ranging talks. “We have been very clear with the Pakistani government that in implementing that commitment, Pakistan must take action against all militant groups without discriminating.”

When asked to comment on accusations that Pakistan continues to provide sanctuary to Taliban leaders, Schultz responded, ”Pakistan’s continuing significant military operations have had significant impact. They’ve targeted terrorist sanctuaries and have restored government control to parts of Pakistan that have previously been safe havens for terrorists.”

The Pentagon has accused Pakistan of serving as a safe haven for terrorists, like the Taliban, fighting U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

Nevertheless, Schultz claimed that the relationship between the U.S. and Pakistan has made progress after President Obama met with Sharif in the White House two years ago.