This week Jubilee Campaign is highlighting cases of religious persecution and discrimination in Pakistan in light of World Day of Social Justice on February 20th.
Discrimination in Media
In October of 2016 the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PERMA) ordered a mass shutdown of Christian TV stations, stating that they were illegal. The shutdown affected 11 stations including Isaac TV and Catholic TV.
Technically, all religious stations are illegal as PERMA licenses are not issued for religious content, however, many Islamic channels exist with no trouble. Many operators at Christian stations feel discriminated against since their content was shut down and Islamic content was not. The ban purportedly leaves Christians in Pakistan without a media presence.
Christian media has a long history of being targeted in Pakistan, but usually from hard-liner Muslims. It is not unusual for individuals who air gospel music, scripture, or any Christian content over the air, on TV, or through Youtube to be threatened. Journalists in Pakistan are also at risk for reporting on Christian issues or stories that seem anti-Islamic.
The shutdown of the Christian channels comes shortly after a 16-year-old boy was accused of blasphemy and charged under Pakistan’s penal code for liking an inflammatory picture of an Islamic holy site on Facebook.
Following a court hearing where the judge announced that Nabeel Masih could face the death penalty, a mob demanded outside the court that the boy be hanged. Friends, family, and neighbors have fled the Christian village where the boy is from in fear of retaliation from surrounding Muslims.
Despite Pakistan being a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which prohibits discrimination on the basis of religion and guarantees the freedom of thought, conscience and religion, Pakistan continues to persecute and allow discrimination against its religious minorities.
Efforts have been made in the U.S. to urge Pakistan to repeal their blasphemy laws. In June 2015, Congressman Joe Pitts and Congresswoman Sheila Jackson-Lee introduced H.Res. 290 “Calling for the global repeal of blasphemy laws.” The resolution calls on the President and State Department to make repealing blasphemy laws a priority topic when dealing with countries with such laws. It also urges for Pakistan to be designated as a Country of Particular Concern by the State Department. To learn more about the resolution, click here.
In honor of World Day of Social Justice, and on behalf of Asia Bibi and all the other victims of blasphemy, we urge you to contact your Representative and ask them to support H.Res. 290. Unsure who your representative is? Find out here!
We will also be sending a petition to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on World Day of Social Justice asking him to designate Pakistan as a Country of Particular Concern. Please sign the petition and spread the word!