Pakistan warns media against promoting Valentine’s Day

A man inflates a heart shaped balloon ahead of Valentine’s day in Peshawar, Pakistan Feb. 7, 2018. (Reuters/Fayaz Aziz)
Updated 07 February 2018
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Pakistan warns media against promoting Valentine’s Day

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s media regulator has warned television channels and radio stations to refrain from promoting Valentine’s Day after a court banned celebrations last year.
Valentine’s Day is increasingly popular among younger Pakistanis, with many taking up the custom of giving cards, chocolates and gifts to their sweethearts to mark the occasion.
But the country remains a deeply traditional Muslim society and many disapprove of the holiday as a Western import.
Pakistan’s President Mamnoon Hussain told a crowd of students in 2016 that the day had no place in the Muslim-majority nation and urged young people to focus on their studies instead.
Last year, the Islamabad High Court prohibited celebrations in public spaces and government offices across the country.
In a Twitter post Wednesday, the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) said last year’s ban was still in place and urged the media to “desist from promoting” the festivities.
Social media users were quick to respond, with some mocking the regulatory body.
“Hate preechers who incite violence in name of Islam are back on air. These hate monger are promoted & protected by the state of #Pakistan. But love speak and red heart balloon and flower vendors are a danger to this republic and Islam,” journalist Ahmad Noorani posted on Twitter.
Another user Adnan Sami commented on Facebook: “PEMRA directs media to refrain from promoting Valentine’s Day, PEMRA never directs media from promoting hate monger Mullahs.”
Others lauded the decision, echoing the views of officials who have previously blasted the celebrations as “vulgar and indecent.”
Ali Danish said on Twitter: “Pemra did right. What sort of love do you want to spread via Valentine’s day? Us distancing ourselves from islam is haunting us big-time.”


Algerian blogger accused of espionage sentenced to 10 years in prison

Updated 25 May 2018
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Algerian blogger accused of espionage sentenced to 10 years in prison

  • An Algerian blogger arrested last year over social media posts has been sentenced to 10 years in prison on espionage and other charges
  • Charges against the blogger, Merzoug Touati, included “incitement for taking up arms against the state”

ALGIERS: An Algerian blogger arrested last year over social media posts has been sentenced to 10 years in prison on espionage and other charges, a human rights activist said on Friday.
Charges against the blogger, Merzoug Touati, included “incitement for taking up arms against the state” and “encouraging crowd gathering,” said Said Salhi, a member of the Algerian League for the Defense of Human Rights.
They also included espionage “with foreign agents, in particular from Israel, with the goal of tarnishing Algeria’s diplomatic position,” Salhi said.
Touati was arrested in January 2017 after he published a Facebook message and a video on YouTube on accounts that were later deleted.
One post called for protests against a 2017 finance law, while the video included an interview with an Israeli foreign ministry spokesman who denied accusations by the Algerian authorities that Israel was behind anti-government protests in Algeria at the time.
Amnesty International said it had reviewed court documents that list the posts as evidence against Touati and that it had found “no incitement to violence or advocacy of hatred.”
“Rather, his posts were covered by freedom of expression in relation to his work as a citizen-journalist,” the rights group said in a statement.
Touati was sentenced on Thursday by a court in Bejaia, east of the capital Algiers.
He has 10 days to appeal the verdict, according to Algerian law.