Lahore: Pakistan's television regulatory body, The Pakistan Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) has blocked all its 11 Christian TV channels being ‘illegally’ run across the country.
The channels relayed religious programmes for Christians living in the country. However, the Christian channels had been operating for more than two and a half decades, just as numerous Islamic channels still do. As per PEMRA, it does not allow landing for religious content.
The move came after a raid conducted by PEMRA officials against cable operators who were violating rules, reports The Express Tribune.
The blocked channels are Isaac TV, Gawahi TV, God Bless TV, Barkat TV, Praise TV, Zindagi TV, Shine TV, Jesus TV (Jessi TV), Healing TV, Khushkhabari TV, and Catholic TV.
Sheikh Tahir, the regulator’s general manager media said the blocked TV channels did not have licences to continue their transmissions. He clarified that there was no segregation in the name of religion.
Saleem Iqbal, director of Isaac TV, hopes that Christians in Pakistan will still be able to watch their content on the Internet. "We look at it like it is, we do not have the license. We can only ask people to continue to watch us online," he told AsiaNews.it. "Many people are passionate about our channel, which is broadcast from Hong Kong. A ban on cable transmission will not stop us."
The government's move comes as Asia Bibi, a Christian mother of five who was sentenced to death in 2010 on accusations of blasphemy, is awaiting her appeal.
Bibi was sentenced to death in 2010 on allegations of blasphemy after two co-workers accused her of insulting the Muslim prophet Muhammad. In July, Pakistan's Supreme Court set a date in October for the 51-year-old's final appeal hearing to determine whether she will be executed or not.
One day in June 2009, she was picking berries with a group of Muslim women in the town of Sheikhupura in the Punjab province. The women got upset that she drank from the same water bowl as them. An argument ensued, and the women went to police and accused her of saying something along the lines of "My Christ died for me, what did Muhammad do for you?" She was promptly arrested.
After the move, Nadim Anthony, a Christian advocate and rights activist, termed it a blow to the Christian minority and said the blocked channels had a huge viewership, through which community members took religious guidance.
The Christian channels were blocked like the Indian DTH TV channels as if non-Muslims were also anti-Pakistan, he lamented.
Last month, PEMRA announced a complete ban on airing of Indian content in the country.
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