Interior ministry shuts Radio Free Europe's Pashto-language station

ISLAMABAD: Authorities shut down the US-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty‘s Pashto-language station in the country on Friday for airing content “against the interest of Pakistan”.

The office of RFE/RL’s Radio Mashaal in Islamabad was ordered closed by the Ministry of Interior.

The notification accused Radio Mashaal of portraying Pakistan as a “failed state” and “a hub of terrorism and safe haven for different militant groups.”

The government alleged that the station was “distorting facts (to) incite the target population against the state and its institutions”, referring to ethnic Pashtuns.

The notification specified Radio Mashaal‘s audience in the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan, and the northwestern tribal areas along the border with Afghanistan.

RFE/RL President Thomas Kent said in a statement that he was “extraordinarily concerned by the closure” and was “urgently seeking more information about the Pakistani authorities’ intentions.”

Kent said his organisation has “no connection to the intelligence agencies of any country.”

“We hope this situation will be resolved without delay.”

The Pashto-language Radio Mashaal was launched in 2010 to help undermine militants.

RFE/RL, founded in 1950 to beam programmes into the communist bloc, is funded by a grant from the US Congress, according to its website.

It currently broadcasts in 25 languages and aims to “serve as a ‘surrogate’ free press in 23 countries where the free flow of information is banned or not fully developed.”

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