Friday, May 16, 2008

Afghan journalists terrorized

Yaqub Ibrahimi is the brother of condemned journalist Pervez Kambakhsh (the latest on him below). By the best insider accounts (i.e. Ibrahimi's employer Jean MacKenzie of IWPR), it seems that the young Pervez was arrested and condemned as an effort to terrorize his older brother Yaqub, who is a competent journalist seemingly unafraid to tell the truth.

Ibrahimi spoke at an international media conference in Bali, Indonesia last month. Participants included reporters from Associated Press, Der Spiegel and International Herald Tribune. Excerpts from his speech:

'Situation for the Media in Afghanistan is Getting Worse and Worse'

Thanks for giving me the chance to speak. My special thanks to those who hold such conferences to discuss the freedom of speech...

I would like to say very openly that the situation for the media in Afghanistan is getting worse and worse, and if this situation is not controlled, it will turn Afghanistan into a major abattoir of journalists and a graveyard for the media. Despite the three or four years ago, in which the media had changed Afghanistan. Today and in particular since early 2007, it has been very bad for the media in which everything has been moving backwards...

The question is who these enemies are?

1. Fundamentalist warlords in the north part of country, who consider the freedom of speech as the only source for revealing their crimes. They are in the threshold of dominating the situation. They have found their way into the Afghan parliament and through the parliament; they have remarkable influence on the Afghanistan government. They own the laws and with their local and military power, they use the laws against the freedom of speech and against the journalists.

2. The extremist Taliban group in the south and west of the country which does not need to talk about because everybody knows about this group. They do not believe in any values of freedom of speech. Beheading journalists and writers are considered as their regular hobbies. Tackling the freedom of speech and press is part of their policy.

3. Taliban-style Mullahs in the capital and some parts of the country. They have established religious councils and they misuse the religion to put pressure on the freedom of speech and press. They control most of the country’s judicial system and through that, they can bring the journalists and the media to the court very easily and sentence them to death. They put them in jail or make them apologize.

4. And finally, it is Karzai's administration which has paved all of these ways for putting pressure and tackling the freedom of speech in my country. So it is changing to a system of anti-freedom of speech and press gradually...

The weak regime of Karzai is currently unable to control the bad situation for the media in Afghanistan because the fundamentalists, who are the enemy of the freedom of press and speech, control most of the regime... (link, at RAWA site)
Meanwhile, Kambakhsh's case is delayed:
Appeal hearing delay for journalist under sentence of death

MONTREAL, May 14: Reporters Without Borders calls on the Afghan authorities to cooperate with the lawyer of Sayed Perwiz Kambakhsh, a young journalist under sentence of death, to allow him to submit his client's appeal. Nearly two months have gone by since the case was transferred to Kabul, but his lawyer has still not been given the case file, which is preventing him from preparing the appeal.

"The case has not progressed since it was transferred to the Kabul court of justice," the press freedom organisation said. "We urge the authorities to speed up the procedure so that Kambakhsh's appeal can receive a fair hearing, far from the influence of religious fundamentalists. This was not the case when he was tried and sentenced to death for blasphemy in Mazar-i-Sharif. We call on foreign governments to continue to intercede on Kambakhsh's behalf."...

Jawed Ahmad, a young Afghan journalist who works for the Canadian television network CTV, has been held without trial by the US military at Bagram airbase, north of Kabul, since 2 November... (link to RSF press release)

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