New Afghan law ignites fear over shrinking press freedoms

Amie Ferris-Rotman
Wednesday, 04-July-2012

 

KABUL: Afghan journalists are locked in a row with their government over media freedoms, in what appears to be the latest attempt by authorities to appeal to the more conservative side of society ahead of the pullout of most foreign troops.

A revised media law looks to significantly tighten the government's grip over the fledgling but lively Afghan press corps, and limit foreign programming in a move likely to please the Taliban, with whom Kabul is seeking peace negotiations.

"The government wants to be prepared for 2014, and are paving the way for conservative elements to return," said Abdul Mujeeb Khalvatgar, executive director of media advocacy group Nai, referring to the deadline for most NATO troops to withdraw.

During the Taliban's five-year reign, which ended in 2001 when they were toppled by U.S.-backed Afghan forces, the Islamist group permitted only one radio station and a newspaper, and women were denied basic rights such as voting and most work.

"We are very worried. The press, freedom of speech and women will be sacrificed first," Hashmat Radfar, editor of daily paper Nukhost, told Reuters.

President Hamid Karzai trumpets the existing 2009 media law, which took years to pass, as one of his government's major achievements, though war and an atmosphere of impunity make Afghanistan one of the most dangerous places in the world to be a journalist.

Western backing of the relatively large Afghan media has failed to prevent the intimidation, abduction and even death reporters face for uncovering corruption and other government failings, and some say it is getting worse.

Though not yet passed, the revision of the 2009 law proposes handing the High Media Council, a 13-member body headed by the Culture Minister and including a religious scholar and civil society representatives, enormous sway over the country's media, from ethics to legal procedures.

FOREIGN RESTRICTIONS

A key difference between the existing and draft laws is the restriction on foreign programming on radio and television, a nod to the huge popularity of Turkish soap operas and Bollywood films, which display more liberal views of women and romance than are typically found in traditional Afghan culture.

While no limit currently exists, the new law proposes foreign programmes broadcast on certain state media receive the Council's "acknowledgement", and in some cases, do not exceed thirty percent of air time.

"One begins to wonder if the openness (of the press) was just because of Western pressure," said Heather Barr of Human Rights Watch in Afghanistan.

"There could be very dark days ahead for freedom in Afghanistan," she added.

Jalal Norani, an advisor to the Culture Minister, dismissed accusations the government was seeking to satisfy conservative elements, adding: "We will work with journalists together to make a better law".

Many media workers and their representatives not only reject the revised law, but want amendments made to the original law, including more legal protection, better libel laws and greater transparency.

A frequent gripe under the current law is the stipulation that reporting must "observe the principles of Islam", a vague rule which some journalists say the government uses to detain them for a host of reasons.

Nai's Khalvatgar said journalists, lawyers and unions are planning to present their recommended changes to the Ministry of Information and Culture on July 15.

Afghanistan ranks seventh on the "Impunity Index" compiled by New York-based watchdog Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), a list of countries where journalists are killed regularly and governments fail to solve the crimes.

CPJ said in its annual report in April that while Afghanistan has experienced a slowdown in targeted killings, it had made no progress in prosecuting the killers of journalists. (Reporting by Amie Ferris-Rotman; Editing by Daniel Magnowski)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



    

Top Stories

Black Cap Williamson banned from bowling

WELLINGTON: New Zealand batsman Kane Williamson has been banned from bowling his occasional off-spin in international cr...

Punjab govt. seeks four-month time for LB polls

ISLAMABAD: Punjab government has sought four-month time from Supreme Court (SC) for holding local bodies election in the...

Car bombings kill at least 33 people in Iraq

BAGHDAD: A new wave of car bombs ripped through commercial areas in the Iraqi capital and areas to the south Tuesday, ki...

Altaf, Zardari discuss law & order in Sindh

KARACHI: Muttahidat Qaumi Movement (MQM) chief Altaf Hussain and former president and co-chairman of Pakistan Peoples Pa...

White House weighs petition to deport Justin Bieber

WASHINGTON: As if Barack Obama didn't have enough problems to deal with already, his administration now is being asked t...

Sindh CNG stations reopen after 24 hours

KARACHI: CNG stations across Sindh including Karachi reopened after 24-hour closure at 8:00 AM today (Tuesday), media re...

Gas leakage blast kills 1, hurts 3 in Quetta

QUETTA: An explosion occurred at a house due to gas leakage, killing at least one person and wounding three others here ...

Ministry of CAD decisions put students,teachers & parents in a fix

Islamabad:Ministry of Capital Administration and Development (CAD) indecisive attitude put the students as well as paren...

10-year-old maid allegedly tortured to death in Lahore

LAHORE: A 10-year-old girl, who works as maid, was allegedly tortured to death in Lahore, medi reported.Sources said tha...

Five friends voluntarily embrace death: police

THATTA: Police after initial investigation claimed that five friends, who were allegedly killed in Noori Jam Tamachi, vo...

Pakistan wants good relations with all neighbouring countries: PM Nawaz

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has said that Pakistan wanted good relations with all the neighbouring countries....

IHC dismisses Musharaf’s pleas; verdict issued

ISLAMABAD: Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Thursday issued 11-page detailed verdict over the intra-court appeal filed by f...

Pakistan to get $550m after IMF review meeting on Dec. 19

WASHINGTON: International Monetary Fund (IMF) first quarter review meeting on Pakistan’s loan programme will be held on...

Kayani thanks Corps Commanders for extending support

RAWALPINDI: The 166th Corps Commanders Conference was held at General Headquarters on Thursday.   Outgoing Chief of Ar...

3 women held captive for 30 years: UK police

LONDON: Three women have been freed after spending 30 years held captive in a south London home, including one woman be...

Iran has slowed work on atomic facilities: IAEA

NEW YORK: Iran appears to have dramatically slowed work on its atomic energy program since the summer, U.N. officials s...

Young Frenchman too heavy to fly will go home by ship

NEW YORK CITY: A young Frenchman who weighs 230 kilograms (500 pounds) and was deemed too heavy to fly on a jetliner ar...

Ex-military ruler Pervez Musharraf released

ISLAMABAD: Adiala Jail authorities have formally released the country’s former military strongman General (retd) Pervez...

Bolivia coca ambush leaves 4 security force members dead

LA PAZ: A weekend ambush and hostage-taking involving police and Bolivian coca growers has left four people dead, offic...

Muslim pilgrims ritually stone devil as hajj nears end

MINA: Throngs of Muslim pilgrims took part in devil-stoning ritual for a second day Wednesday in Saudi Arabia's Mina Va...


Feature / Analysis

  • The Reason Why Israel Killed so Many Pregnant Women in Gaza

    After five weeks of Israeli bombing and invasion the United Nations re...

    Read More »

  • While Israel Kill Gaza's Children, Media Shield The Truth About Hamas

    As the people of Gaza find momentary respite to impact of Israel's bru...

    Read More »

  • The cave dwellers of Bamiyan

    The sandstone cliffs of Afghanistan's Bamiyan province are most famous...

    Read More »

  • Why America's war in Afghanistan is no victory

    Afghanistan is the only country in the world where American soldiers a...

    Read More »


Opinion

  • How Can We Destroy Love?

    Love is a serious problem in our world. There is too much of it. So I ...

    Read More »

  • The Anniversary of Rabaa and Sisi's Genocide

    General Sisi’s military coup claimed that it was put in effect to answ...

    Read More »

  • National Unity Committee Update

    The National Unity Committee, a joint commission appointed by both pre...

    Read More »

  • In Afghan election dispute, enter the DC lobbyists

    Afghanistan presidential hopeful Ashraf Ghani is spending nearly $150,...

    Read More »