The government of Afghanistan, competing with the Taliban for public support and trying to fend off accusations that it is corrupt and ineffective, is moving to curb one of its own most impressive achievements: the country's flourishing independent news media.It's hard to imagine why anyone would be optimistic, unless they were interested in bases and pipelines and such.
Under President Hamid Karzai, a 1960s media law was updated and has been considered the most liberal in the region. Six independent television channels have begun broadcasting, and dozens of radio stations and newspapers are now operating. All news media outlets were under government control under the Taliban government, which was ousted in late 2001.
Yet for the past year, as the government has sought to counter growing public dissatisfaction, it has tried to impose more controls over the news media, journalists and human rights officials said.
Parliament is now considering amendments that the critics warn could undo many of the gains made since the fall of the Taliban.
Said Aqa Fazil Sancharaki, the director of the Afghanistan National Journalists' Union, who has been lobbying against many of the amendments with limited success, said: "We are concerned about more restrictions. We are not optimistic."
For those interested in the truth, there's not much to be optimistic about.
The proposal before Parliament would prohibit coverage seen as violating the provisions of Islam or insulting other religions, as well as coverage that insults individuals or corporations, without allowing truth as a defense. It would also prohibit coverage seen as endangering national stability, security or sovereignty.If you insult an individual or a corporation by telling the truth about them, that's still an insult, right?
And if American troops happen to open fire on unarmed civilians, why should photos of the scene be available to the world? Such photos, if permitted, might show details that are not as they originally were. And they might give the world the wrong impression. Telling the truth about such an event would certainly be an insult to the liberating Americans, wouldn't it?
I think so. It makes a lot of sense to me, and it certainly looks like freedom for Afghanistan is just around the corner.