Voice of America protests Pakistan move to block its content

Pakistan's Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry reportedly told VOA that it had been blocked in the country due to "false and prejudiced reporting". (Mettisglobal.news)
Updated 13 December 2018

Voice of America protests Pakistan move to block its content

ISLAMABAD: US public radio Voice of America (VOA) on Thursday called for Pakistan to lift a block on two of its websites, in Urdu and Pashto, as concerns grow over freedom of speech in the country.

"In the interest of press freedom, VOA calls upon those responsible for blocking our content to immediately remove these constraints," said Amanda Bennett, the director of VOA, in a statement to AFP.

"Any attempt to block our websites deprives Urdu and Pashto speakers in the region access to a trusted news source," she continued, adding that the organisation was "troubled" by the block.

The VOA Urdu website has been partially or fully blocked since early December and the site for VOA Deewa, the Pashto language service, since late October, she said.

The websites have been irregularly accessible in Islamabad in recent days.

Pakistani information minister Fawad Chaudhry told VOA the block was in place due to "false and prejudiced reporting".

"The stories they were doing were only projecting a particular narrative without any impartial view," he said, according to a story published by VOA on its English language site. "There are many things happening in our country and most are positive."

In the article VOA blamed the penalty on its coverage of the Pashtun Protection Movement (PTM), a civil rights group which has rattled the powerful Pakistani military with its claims of army abuses and accusations of ties to the Afghan Taliban.

Recently, the military warned the PTM that it will use force against them if they "cross the line". Coverage of the group in local mainstream media is muted.

There have been growing concerns about what is seen as a clampdown on media in Pakistan in recent months, with a series of high-profile attacks on journalists leading to fears the shadowy military establishment is seeking to shrink the space for dissent and free speech.

Local media have complained about pressure in the run-up to a general election in July which resulted in self-censorship tilted towards the eventual victor, cricketer-turned-prime-minister Imran Khan.

In January, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty's Pashto-language station -- Radio Mashaal, or Torch -- was closed for airing content "against the interest of Pakistan".

King Salman congratulates President Alvi on Pakistan’s Independence Day

Updated 13 August 2020

King Salman congratulates President Alvi on Pakistan’s Independence Day

  • The Saudi king wished the Pakistani president good health and prayed for the prosperity of Pakistani people
  • Saudi envoy in Islamabad also recorded an Independence Day message in Urdu that went viral on social media

ISLAMABAD: King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud sent a message of felicitation to Pakistan’s President Dr. Arif Alvi on Thursday, congratulating him on the 74th Independence Day of his country that will be celebrated on Friday.
The king reached out to the Pakistani head of the state on behalf of his government and people of Saudi Arabia, wishing him good health and praying for the progress and prosperity of the people of Pakistan.
Saudi Ambassador to Pakistan Nawaf bin Said Al-Malki also recorded an Independence Day message in Urdu that went viral on social media. 

Pakistan and Saudi Arabia have always enjoyed cordial relations with each other. The Kingdom has been among of the biggest job providers to Pakistanis and the greatest source of foreign remittances for the South Asian nation.
The two countries have also witnessed leadership level exchanges since the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf government assumed the political leadership of Pakistan. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman undertook a high-profile visit to Islamabad in February 2019, and Prime Minister Imran Khan also went to the Kingdom several times during his tenure in the office.
The Saudi king and ambassadors are also among the first foreign leaders and envoys who have issued the Independence Day messages to congratulate the government and people of Pakistan.