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REGIONS:

"ABSOLUTELY NO PRESS FREEDOM" UNDER TALIBAN

A new report by Reporters sans frontières (RSF) documents the extreme restrictions on press freedom in Afghanistan under the rule of the Taliban. One of the Taliban militia?s first moves after taking control of the capital, Kabul, in September 1996 was to lock up the premises of national television and ban all TV broadcasts.
Since then, the Taliban and their allies have taken control of more than 90 percent of the country, Sharia (Islamic law) has been brought into force, and radical reforms, particularly concerning the status of women, have been introduced.

?Press freedom, which was already threadbare under the Taliban's predecessors, has totally disappeared. All television broadcasts have stopped and the TV building is being used as a barracks. The sole radio station, which covers the whole country, puts out only religious programmes and official propaganda -- even music has no place on the Taliban's airwaves,? writes RSF in the report.

?The printed press -- no more than ten publications throughout Afghanistan -- is under government control. Only foreign media, working with the help of dozens of Afghan journalists living in exile, are trying to supply impartial news to a population manipulated by the "theology students".? RSF adds that the Taliban have set up a web site to push for recognition of their regime by the international community, yet they have forbidden their own citizens from having internet access.

RSF notes that ?the Taliban have shown no qualms about murdering Afghan journalists who have fled to Pakistan. Many more have been threatened after writing reports criticising the Taliban's domination of that country.? The report also expresses concern about a "talibanisation" of Pakistan, where religious movements are engaged in a struggle with the military government to close down cable television channels.

?Afghanistan today is one of the countries where absolutely no press freedom exists,? concludes RSF, which points to the regime?s total control of the means of communication and -- as nowhere else in the world -- a ban on pictures. RSF calls on the international community to make respect for freedom of speech a condition of recognising the Taliban government, to support initiatives from exiled Afghan journalists in favour of a diversity of information, and to intervene with Taliban representatives to guarantee the safety of foreign journalists working in Afghanistan.

The full report is available on RSF?s website
http://www.rsf.fr.

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