ISLAMABAD (AFP) - Pakistan's TV regulator on Friday (Feb 12) censured a leading news channel for airing "hate speech" against Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai and her family, warning that accusations of blasphemy could endanger lives.
Malala, who moved to England after being shot in the head by the Taleban, is both admired and hated in her native Pakistan where some conservatives view her as a Western agent on a mission to shame her country.
In its ruling, the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) said that a programme aired by the 24-hour ARY news channel on Feb 7 used "indecent and uncivilised" language to describe the 18-year-old, branding her "a traitor, a blasphemer of Allah and the Prophet (Muhammad)".
"The host and guests used such words about Malala Yousafzai and her family that undoubtedly fall under hate speech and use of such words are strictly banned under the law and constitution," it said.
"Issuing certificates of treason and infidelity and declaring someone the enemy of the country or an enemy of Islam is not the job of TV anchors or the participants of a TV programme," it added.
"They are broadcasting such material which could endanger someone's life." Malala was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014 along with with India's Kailash Satyarthi, a fellow education activist.
Hardline Islamists continue to revile the teen, who was shot in the head by Taleban insurgents in 2012 after she spoke out against them for opposing girls' education.
However, there has also been an outpouring of invective from Pakistan's middle classes, who may be keen to educate their daughters but who object to airing the country's problems abroad.
The hatred towards her stems partly from religious conservatism and opposition to female empowerment, but also taps into scepticism towards a decade-long fight against militants which many Pakistanis regard as being imposed by United States.