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Afghan media face landing rights issue in Pakistan

“Though challenges are there, yet we are still hopeful that Pakistan will play its proactive role in peace mediation, say Afghan embassy officials in Islamabad”

AT-KABUL: Afghan media delegation visited Pakistan this week. The media exchange program, organized by Equal Access Afghanistan and Equal Access Pakistan, turned out to be productive when it comes to bridging the gaps and bringing the two nations closer, addressing health-related issues, and in knowing how Pakistani media see developments in Afghanistan. The theme of the fourth media exchange program was “health and women empowerment.” However, Afghan media representatives were astonished to know that Pakistan has banned Afghan media outlets in the country whereas Pakistani TV channels can be watched in Afghanistan via cables. Pakistan is expected to lift the ban on Afghan TV channels by cable operators only when the Afghan media outlets pay 1.2 million Pakistani Rupees (PKRs).

As the media delegates from Afghanistan visited Afghan embassy in Islamabad, therefore they had the opportunity to talk to the embassy officials regarding the issue. Cultural Attache at the Afghan embassy, Abdul Rahman Habibzoy, told Afghanistan Times that he had made strenuous efforts to take up the issue with Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) and other key government officials but they say until Afghan TV channels pay 1.2 million Pakistani Rupees in landing rights, they wouldn’t be allowed to air their programs and news bulletins. “I personally made serious efforts to resolve the issue but to no effect as they are persistent on paying the landing rights,” Habibzoy said.

He said that Pakistani TV channels are viewed in Afghanistan without landing rights charges. “If Pakistan keeps continue the ban on Afghan TV channels, we must do the same and ban Pakistani TV channels in Afghanistan,” Habibzoy suggested.

He opined that by allowing Afghan TV channels in Pakistan that misconceptions will be overcome as viewers and journalists in Pakistan will have the opportunity to watch what’s happening in Afghanistan. Besides that the ban has deprived hundreds of thousands of Afghans living in Pakistan from having access to their country’s news programs.

“This is highly essential that the Afghans living in Pakistan must know about the political, economic, literacy, and social developments in their home country. And this is possible only when Afghan TV channels are allowed to air their programs,” he said. “Our efforts will continue until PEMRA allows Afghan TV channels to air their programs,” Habibzoy said. Besides the media issue, Habibzoy said they were still confident that Pakistan will play its role in peace mediation and possibly peace talks will be resumed.

Talking on the landing rights issue, the Political Counselor to the Afghan Embassy in Islamabad, Abdul Nasir Yousufi, said they had taken up the ban issue with the Pakistani media and information authorities many times. Yousufi added that Pakistan had also blocked the Afghan cellular roaming services and Afghans coming to Pakistan cannot use Afghan SIMs. This is pertinent to mention there has been no ban on the Pakistani SIMs roaming in Afghanistan. Yousufi also talked on the importance of media and its positive role in bringing peace and harmony. He said that journalists from Pakistan must also visit Afghanistan to see and report the developments taking place in the country.

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