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US expresses concern over forced shutdown of Radio Mashaal in Pakistan

US expresses concern over forced shutdown of Radio Mashaal in Pakistan

Jan 20, 2018 - 09:55

WASHINGTON (Pajhwok): The United States has expressed concern over the decision of the Pakistani government to shut down Islamabad bureau of Radio Mashaal, the Pashtoinfo-icon-language service of US Congress-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) after the ISIinfo-icon alleged that its programs are anti-Pak.   

“We have seen these reports and have expressed our concerns to the Government of Pakistaninfo-icon. We are closely monitoring the situation,” a State Department Spokesperson told Pajhwok Afghan News.

 “The United States supports media freedom around the worldinfo-icon. An active and independent press is a cornerstone of democratic governance,” the spokesperson said responding to a question in this regard.

Radio Mashaal was established in 2010 by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, which is funded by US Government to provide an alternative to extremist propaganda in the tribal regions along Pakistan’s border with Afghanistaninfo-icon, reaching audiences that are otherwise subject to the “mullahinfo-icon” radio of Talibaninfo-icon extremists and the recruitment efforts of other militant groups.

A day earlier, Pakistan’s Interior Ministry asked that it be closed after Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) alleged that its programs are “against the interest of Pakistan” and “in line with [a] hostile intelligence agency’s agenda.”

The allegations have been refuted by REF/RL. “Radio Mashaal serves no intelligence agency or government,” said RFE/RL president Thomas Kent

“Our reporters are Pakistani citizens who are dedicated to their country and live and raise families in the villages in which they report.  We demand that their safety be ensured, and that they be permitted to resume their work without fear or delay,” Kent said.

New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists in a statement called on Pakistani authorities to immediately reverse the order issued to close the Islamabad bureau of Radio Mashaal.

“The order to close Radio Mashaal’s office in Islamabad is a draconian move by Pakistani authorities and a direct threat to press freedom in the country,” Steven Butler, CPJ’s Asia Program Coordinator, said from Washington D.C.

“Radio Mashaal is an important source of information in Pakistan and should be allowed to continue operating in the country without further harassment from the government,” he said.

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