As drums of war get louder, Pakistan blacks out Indian channels

As war rhetoric beams ever louder, Pakistan on Saturday issued orders to all cable TV operators in the country to stop relaying broadcasts of Indian satellite television channels.

This is the second time in the last three months that orders to black out Indian TV channels have been issued. However, the last time round mainly news channels were included in the ambit of the ban. Following the 11 September WTC attack the All-Pakistan Cable Operators' Association had imposed a countrywide ban on airing five Indian channels "propagating against Islam and Pakistan."

The channels, which were blacked out then were Zee News, Star News, Star Plus, Jain TV and all Doordarshan channels.

Chief of the Pakistan Telecom Authority Maj Gen Shabzada Alam Malik has warned that cable operators defying the ban would be penalised and their licences cancelled.

The Indian government, meanwhile, said it is closely monitoring the contents of Pakistan’s state-owned television – Pakistan Television - on account of its anti-India propaganda. However, information & broadcasting minister Sushma Swaraj said no decision had yet been taken on banning the channel.

Condemning the false propaganda being carried out by the channel, the minister said that any decision would be taken only after consultation with ministry of external affairs. Any decision to ban a foreign channel has to be ratified by a committee of secretaries, Swaraj has been quoted as saying. PTV was banned at the time of war in Kargil.

Though official orders have not gone out, there are reports of a similar ban on PTV in some parts of India. District authorities in Meerut on Thursday night banned telecast of PTV channel through cable operators till January 25, 2002, to check "anti-national publicity".

Meanwhile, the Central Monitoring Service, under the I&B Ministry, has stepped up the content monitoring exercise of different television and radio channels, especially after the beginning of the war in Afghanistan, ministry officials were quoted as saying.

CMS is involved in monitoring of content in Indian and foreign media on a regular basis and its reports are sent to several ministries including home, defence, external affairs and I&B.

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