Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans frontières) today called on the Afghan authorities to reopen Afghan Cable Centre, a cable TV service based in the eastern city of Jalalabad (Nangahar province) which local authorities banned some 10 days ago despite a national government undertaking to support the development of cable television.
"Your government took a clear position on the question of cable TV and you must make sure it is implemented throughout the country," Reporters Without Borders said in a letter to information and culture minister Sayeed Makhdoom Raheen, urging him to intervene to ensure respect for the licences issued to cable TV operators by the government.
Authorities in Jalalabad cited complaints about "shocking" programmes as the reason for banning Afghan Cable Centre and charging its manager, Mohammed Humayun, with breaking the law. They were apparently alluding to programmes of Indian or western origin showing men and women singing and dancing together, which conservatives often describe as contrary to Islam and Afghan culture.
Humayun denies violating a ban on broadcasting "anti-Islamic images." Some sources have said he has been threatened. The government has meanwhile set up a commission to establish whether the operator broke any rules.
Afghan Cable Centre, which currently has about 700 subscribers and carries six news and entertainment channels, was previously banned by the Jalalabad authorities in December 2002. A few weeks later, the supreme court banned cable TV throughout Afghanistan. The government thereafter drew up a broadcasting code and a list of authorized TV stations, and new licences were issued in May.