BBC welcomes Pakistan PM pledge to look into ban

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The BBC said Friday it welcomed a promise by Pakistan's prime minister to investigate the blocking of the BBC World News channel in the country after it showed a documentary about the Taliban.

Pakistani cable operators pulled the channel nationwide on November 29 amid a row over the "Secret Pakistan" documentary and amid anger over NATO air strikes that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers.

In a statement issued in London, the BBC said Pakistan Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani had pledged in an interview with the broadcaster that he would "look into" the ban.

"We remain deeply concerned that BBC World News has been taken off-air by the Cable Association of Pakistan," a BBC spokesperson said.

"We welcome the prime minister's support of free speech and promise to investigate this ban. We call on the government to carry out an investigation rapidly and for BBC services to be restored in Pakistan.

"We condemn any action that threatens our editorial independence and prevents audiences from accessing our impartial international news service."

Gilani said in the interview that Pakistani authorities supported media freedom and had abolished "Draconian" laws from the past.

"And we have given freedom of media, and you are a witness here that how many channels are working day in and day out against the government. And if this is a specific which you have mentioned, I will look into it," the BBC quoted him as saying.

The two-part BBC documentary "Secret Pakistan" shown last month accuses parts of Pakistan's intelligence service of complicity with Taliban militants.

Pakistan has aroused increasing criticism overseas and from human rights campaigners within the country over censorship. The row over the BBC saw people post links to the documentary on their Facebook and Twitter accounts.

Last month the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority was forced to row back from banning text messages containing any of nearly 1,700 words, many of which were seemingly innocuous, following outrage from users and campaigners.

© 2011 AFP

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