Afghanistan's Information minister, Sayed Makhdum Rahin, has banned a number of media organisations in recent weeks, leading some journalists to warn against a growing threat to freedom of expression, according to the latest report from the Institute of War and Peace Reporting's Afghan Recovery Report .
Fariba Wahedi's report says that the Pashto-language news website Benawa.com was closed in September after publishing articles commenting on the health of Afghan vice-president, Mohammad Qasim Fahim. At one point the site erroneously reported that Fahim had died. Even though this report was withdrawn after 30 minutes, the site was still closed down following complaints from Fahim.
According to an English-language statement on the Benawa.com website, the website was closed because Rahin, who they regard as pro-Iranian, "resents and opposed benawa.com because the website's majority visitor are pashtoons". It cites numerous examples of physical brutality against its reporters and staff.
The statement adds that the reporter who wrote the story, Mirwais Jalazay, "is under heavy death threats by Qasim Fahim's gunmen, who threaten to take his life."
The website's main office is based in Albany, New York, but it employs 130 journalists in Afghanistan from where it is trying to raise support for its campaign to be allowed to re-open. It thoroughly deserves to be supported. Please visit the website and spread the news.
Emrooz TV, which broadcasts in Dari from Herat, was also closed in July, but allowed to reopen a week ago. It was alleged to have been promoting sectarian hatred - a charge which the station's management strongly reject. It is believed the station was shut down following pressure from the Iranian government.
Saqi TV, which also broadcasts from Herat, was closed on 5 September after being accused of inciting people to protest against plans by an American pastor to burn copies of the Koran. Again, the station strongly rejects such charges and insists it asked people to remain calm.
There are thought to be 850 newspapers and magazines in Afghanistan, along with 20 TV channels, 100 radio stations and six news agencies.
* On Monday this week Afghanistan’s telecoms watchdog shut down 17 internet cafes in Kabul for allowing access to “immoral websites”, officials said.
The net cafes had been warned last week not to allow customers to look at porn or un-Islamic websites or they would face action. Mohammad Ibrahim Abbasi, a member of the Afghan Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (ATRA), said the council of ministers had ordered officials to shut down all venues that allowed access to material that violated Islamic teachings and the constitution of the country.
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