10 September 2008
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editorial assistance by Tiffany Udoh
Imagine how difficult it is to hear that a friend or colleague is being arrested, punished or sentenced for performing the normal activities of his profession—especially when that profession is informing the public.
Recently, the National Security Department of Afghanistan (NSD) arrested Nasir Fayaz , a friend and former colleague at Ariana Television (ATN) in Kabul, Afghanistan.
Government Corruption Exposed
Fayaz, one of the best Dari newscasters in ATN, produced and presented the critical weekly program titled “Haqiqat”, which means “the truth”. Each episode criticized weaknesses in Afghanistan’s government: administrative corruption, poor performance, bribery, former Mujahedeen involvement, the Taliban’s empowerment, confusion among the branches of the government, useless projects, and mistakes in foreign policy.
The NSD of Afghanistan has illegally arrested Nasir Fayaz, alleging that Fayaz made false accusations against senior government officials, including some ministers on “Haqiqat”. In actuality it is neither the responsibility nor the jurisdiction of NSD to deal with media issues. The Commission on Media Law Violations bears that responsibility. Unfortunately, Karim Khoram, one of Afghanistan’s most fundamentalist figures, presides over this commission.
Khoram, currently Minister of Information and Culture, has been acting against journalists of free media for the past year; in this case the NSD should not have arrested Fayaz.
In 2006, the Ministry of Information and Culture presented Nasir Fayaz with the Best Journalist-Newscaster of the Year Award; however in 2008, this ministry is quiet and has not yet acted for his release.
Afghan Government Crushing Free Speech
In addition to Fayaz, Afghan journalist Parviz Kambakhsh has been imprisoned for several months without a final decision from the judicial branch of Afghanistan. This is an act against freedom of the press in this country’s emerging democracy.
In some cases, members of Parliament, police, and army officers have assaulted Ariana Television journalists. In addition to government threats against Afghan media activists, the Taliban and other fundamentalists, supported by the government, are also still a major threat to journalists.
Hanif Elham, another producer - journalist from ATN who produces human rights programs for radio and television, has received death threats for several months from the Taliban. Elham must now live in hiding and change his travel routes in order to be safe.
Also, filmmaker Zaki Merzaiye, known for his documentary on the only Jew in Afghanistan, was threatened by extremist Islamists and has escaped to an unknown place, according to a source among his close friends and family members.
The Afghan government confines freedom of speech and expression to illegally achieve its political goals while religious fundamentalists and extremists take advantage of these practices for their own goals. As a result, fundamentalism is promoted once again in the country with the direct and indirect help of the government.
As preparations begin for upcoming elections, the government is applying more pressure, especially on the critical free media. For this reason it is expected that more media activists will be persecuted.
Therefore, the family of media and press in Afghanistan should strongly object to these government practices and request the assistance of the international community to protect the free media of Aghanistan and secure the immediate release of Nasir Fayaz and Parviz Kambakhsh—two journalists who were illegally arrested and imprisoned without just cause.