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Afghanistan 29 January 2003

Supreme Court bans cable TV


Special enquiry set up

A week after the supreme court banned cable TV, President Hamid Karzai set up a special commission on 27 January to investigate the cable programmes available in the country. Four ministers were given the job of determining whether all the stations relayed by the Afghan cable companies, including major networks such as CNN and the BBC, were against the moral values of an Islamic society. Karzai gave no deadline for the enquiry and did not say whether the cable companies could resume operations until the enquiry reported back


Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans frontières) said today it was very worried about obstruction of free media growth in the wake of the Supreme Court’s 19 January outlawing of cable television in Kabul after complaints that some programmes were "anti-Islamic." Last month, the court banned the only cable operator in the eastern city of Jalalabad.

The organisation called on information and culture minister Sayeed Makhdoom Raheen to see that the cable broadcasting licences issued by the government of President Hamid Karzai were respected. It said it was "shocked" that an Afghan court was using the same arguments as the fallen Taliban regime to deprive Afghans of entertainment and news programmes.

Chief Justice Mawlazi Fazl Hadi Shinwari said he had acted for religious reasons. People had complained about "half-naked singers and obscene episodes in movies," he said. "We are Afghans and Muslims, with Islamic laws and values. We had to issue this order. Now the government must enforce it," he said.

Police shut down five cable TV operators in Kabul on 19 January, but the information minister publicly opposed their action, saying only his ministry had the authority to do this. "Our policy towards cable TV is one of freedom but they must also obey the new media law," he said. "Of course, stations that are anti-Islamic or against Afghan traditions will be forbidden."

The five cable operators called the ban "unjust." Said Mostafa, head of Star Cable Network, said government officials had asked him to shut down until clear rules were drawn up about the content of programmes.

Cable TV appeared in Kabul in late 2001 after the fall of the Taliban, who had banned television as being against Islam teachings. The stations, which broadcast news, music, sport and films, have quickly become very popular.

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