Afghanistan to limit press freedom

Afghanistan’s parliament is poised to pass a new media law considerably reducing freedom of the press. The controversial package—proposed by the religious and cultural affairs commission of the parliament, chaired by former warlord Haji Mohammed Mohaqeq and supported by the government—will bring both private and state media under greater government control. Proposed changes include an oversight committee to will scrutinize the press for “un-Islamic” content. Complaints concerning media content will be referred directly to the supreme court, a conservative bastion.

A clause in the recent amnesty bill for warlords also protected them from media criticism. This measure was stricken from the final law, but could be revivied in the pending media bill. Growing tension between government and the press are evident. The government’s decision to trade Taliban prisoners for an Italian reporter leaving an Afghan journalists Ajmal Naqshbandi to be murdered has angered Afghan reporters.

Afghanistan’s popular Tolo TV has been locked in a standoff with the national attorney general after police raided the channel following allegations of “misquoting.” Tolo TV, owned by three Afghan-Australian brothers, hit back accusing the attorney general undermining “rule of law and sustainability of democracy” and calling for his removal. The information ministry’s commission on the matter asked Tolo to apologize, saying its coverage of the affair was “ill-intentioned.”

Information Minister Abdul Karim Khurram says the government must have control over media, since the county is at war. (AlJazeera, April 24)

See our last post on Afghanistan and press freedom in Afghanistan.