Pakistan’s television regulatory body has banned all 11 Christian TV channels airing in the country and arrested at least six cable operators for defying the order, according to reports.
The Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority, or PEMRA, does not grant landing rights for religious content, allowing the airing of Christian messages only for Christmas and Easter. However, the Christian channels had been operating for more than two and a half decades, just as numerous Islamic channels still do.
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PEMRA has now formally deemed the Christian channels illegal, and is cracking down on cable operators who are still airing the channels. At least six of them have been arrested, according to UCAnews.
All the Christian channels, barring two, operated from outside Pakistan. Pakistan’s oldest Christian satellite broadcaster, Isaac TV, and Catholic TV, run by the Lahore Archdiocese, have also been shut down.
Father Morris Jalal, founder and executive director of Catholic TV, was quoted as saying, “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.”
Jalal also spoke to the U.K.’s Daily Express, saying, “As citizens, Christians have the right to practice their religion, but if they block you, it means not all citizens are equal. When someone bans the expression of faith, which is a fundamental right, there is persecution.”