New York, January 19, 2018-The Committee to Protect Journalists calls on Pakistani authorities to immediately reverse the order issued to close the Islamabad bureau of Radio Mashaal, the Pashto-language service of U.S. Congress-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL).
It said that the four main themes of the programmes aired by the service included "portraying Pakistan as a hub of terrorism and safe haven for militant groups, propagating Pakistan as a failed state in terms of providing security to its minorities and Pakhtuns, presenting the Pakhtuns of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and Balochistan as being disenchanted with the state, and distorting facts to incite people against state and its institutions".
The closure order was issued after Pakistan's chief of army staff, General Qamar Javed Bajwa, said on January 12 that Pakistan feels "betrayed" by US criticism that it is not doing enough to fight terrorism and by Washington's decision to suspend military aid for Islamabad.
"Programmes aired by Radio Mashaal are found against the interest of Pakistan and are in-line with hostile intelligence agency's agenda", it said.
"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.
Pakistan is consistently ranked among the most risky countries for journalists, who have been detained, kidnapped and subject to physical violence and threats.
The service provides local and worldwide news and in-depth reporting featuring local authorities and tribal elders. "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".