Pakistan has ordered a shutdown of all Christian channels airing in the country and has arrested at least six cable operators for defying the order. Local priests have called the ban a blow to religious freedom in the country.
The ban has affected 11 Christian TV channels including Pakistan’s oldest Christian satellite broadcaster, Isaac TV, as well as Indian Christian channels. The blocked channels include Gawahi TV, God Bless TV, Barkat TV, Praise TV, Zindagi TV, Shine TV, Jesus TV (Jessi TV), Healing TV, Khushkhabari TV, and Catholic TV.
Pakistan’s media regulatory authority PEMRA issued notices to the Church-run TV Channels asking them to “stop transmitting illegal TV Channels immediately”. After the October 15th notice was largely ignored by the cable operators airing the stations, it arrested 6 cable operators for defying the ban.
PEMRA, claims the channels do not have landing rights for airing religious content and can only air festive messages during Christmas or Easter. However, Islamic channels are free to air religious content.
The founder of Catholic TV Father Jalal Morris said the ban by PEMRA was an act of persecution and attack on religious freedom. He further said:
“What is the future of church media in Pakistan? It is a very difficult time for us. We were just trying to reach our own community who are generally ignored by other TV channels.”
Pakistan is home to around 2.8 million Christians and many believe the ban has left them voiceless and without representation in the media. Last year studio of a Christian TV channel was set on fire in an apparent act of arson.