It took the handing down of a death sentence to jolt the Canadian media into finally reporting on the case of Parwiz Kambakhsh, a 23-year old Afghan journalism student. (See my blog entry here.) Here's the extent of the coverage in the major Canadian dailies:
Toronto Star: Jan 24, page A23; AP article, 293 words.
Globe and Mail: Jan 24, page A19; AP article, 233 words.
Winnipeg Free Press: Jan 23, page A7 ('Around the World' heading); AP article, 99 words. (Also, letter to editor, Jan 25.)
The IWPR, with whom Parwez' brother Ibrahimi writes, reports on his trial proceedings:
... The young journalist was given no legal representation and no opportunity to defend himself in a summary trial that lasted less than an hour over charges which are fully denied.Jean MacKenzie of IWPR is quoted by the Guardian:
“Guards brought me into a room where there were three judges and an attorney sitting behind their desks,” Kaambakhsh told IWPR. “The death sentence had already been written. I wanted to say something, but they would not let me speak.” ... (link)
... MacKenzie said the harassment of Ibrahimi was being carried out by the national directorate for security. "In the north, it is clear evidence of the growing power of former commanders or warlords, who are working through religious fundamentalist mullahs, who are also growing in power." ... (See Guardian article here.)Perhaps most shocking are comments made by the Attorney General of Balkh province, where Parwez Kambakhsh lives:
In an interview with RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan, Balkh Province Attorney-General Hafizullah Khaliqyar said Kambakhsh had insulted Islam, misinterpreted the Koran, and distributed the article to others. He denied there had been any violation of the journalist’s rights and said the trial was held in a "very Islamic way." Khaliqyar also said that he would arrest any journalist who defended Kambakhsh. (Link to RFE article.)-------
International appeal to support the immediate release of a young Afghan Journalist
Wednesday 16 January 2008
The case of Parwiz Kambakhsh, a reporter for the local newspaper, “Jahan-e Now,” and a student at Balkh University, requires the urgent attention of journalists and activists for freedom of expression.
Kambakhs was accused and has been unlawfully detained for three months for possessing an article, which discussed controversial verses of The Holy Quran regarding women’s rights.
We believe that the government of Afghanistan and his Excellency president Karzai has an important responsibility to secure free speech for journalists, especially in the area of religion, like the world’s leading democracies.
We pledge our support for and call on Mr. Karzai to work for the immediate release of Mr. Kambakhsh. He has strong support among those who care about freedom of speech and democracy, and they are distributing the facts of this case world-wide.
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