Monday, August 21, 2006

Illegal Pakistani radio broadcast causing violence

Illegal radio stations in Pakistan’s North West Frontier Province were preaching religious militancy and sectarian hatred, a senior official said on Monday. Scores of illegal FM stations are broadcasting in NWFP and in the restive, semi-autonomous tribal areas bordering Afghanistan, and some have been accused of fanning violence. ”We are taking this issue very seriously. Because some stations are creating problems with their hate material which promotes violence,” said Gul Bacha Wazir, the provincial interior secretary.

This year at least 26 people have been killed in clashes between factions led by Muslim clerics in a tribal area after one of the clerics used a radio station to incite his followers to attack families loyal to a rival. Militants and clerics sympathetic to the Taliban and al Qaeda have also been making anti-government broadcasts, often using mobile units that can reach over an area of up to 15 km (10 miles). Pakistan’s Electronic Media Regulating Authority has also been taking action against illegal radio stations and has closed down about 150 of them in the past six months.

“We need to do more. As we don’t have regulation authority in many areas of the NWFP and tribal areas and can’t operate without the help of local authorities,” said the authority’s spokesman, Mohammad Saleem. Wazir said provincial authorities had asked the central government to give them more powers that would allow police to take direct action against illegal stations.

(Source: Reuters/R Netherlands Media Network Weblog)