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Local radio station shuttered, journalists assaulted in Afghanistan

AFJC

A local functioning radio station called Saday-e-Bano (Voice of Woman) was shut down in the northern Sar-e-Pul province of Afghanistan by officials of the province's Information and Cultural Department.

The alleged reason was the station's lack of the requisite documents and professionalism. However, individuals working for the station said their transmissions were blocked after they refused to pay bribes to the authorities concerned. The radio station stopped operating on 24 July 2013 after its senior officials were taken to the provincial attorney's office.

Shafiullah Azizi, head of the banned station, said the director of the Information and Cultural department, Abdul Qadoos Fahim, had asked his colleague to pay a bribe in exchange for allowing the station to function.

"The director called us to his office four days ago and demanded money," said Azizi, "he even threatened with shutting down the radio unless I paid the illegal gratification."

After the station employee failed to provide enough operating license documents, he was asked for the bribe but he rejected this and this resulted in shutting down the station.

Saday-e-Bano has been operational for over three years and it was established with the aim of highlighting Afghan women's issues. Unfortunately, the station has not received support or cooperation from the province's women affairs department.

Meanwhile, the governor of Sar-e-Pul province, Abdul Jabbar Haqbin, confirmed the closure of the radio station but called it an "illegal action" by the director of Information and Culture department and promised to reopen it as soon as possible.

Afghan Journalists Center (AFJC) director Ahmad Quraishi strongly condemned the radio's closure as an attack on freedom of speech.

He added that, the information director should have taken legal action instead of using force and threatening the radio official.

Attacks on journalists

The closure of the station comes on the heels of the humiliation and beating of three local journalists by local officials in Kabul and Pul-e-Khumri cities.

On July 28, Shir Mohammad Jahish, head of Tanwir TV in Northern Pul-e-Khumri city, informed the AFJC over the telephone that a reporter and cameraman for the TV were beaten by guards of the city's ex- mayor. The guards reportedly also took their media equipment and car and then fled the scene.

On July 26, information about Nasratullah Iqbal, a video reporter for Bokhdi News Agency, circulated on social networking websites portraying him in a bad situation with his face and dress covered in blood.

Iqbal told AFJC that he was invited by a friend in Northern Parwan province to a restaurant in Kabul to discuss some issues.

"The governor criticized me for writing a review regarding his book and when I tried to answer him, he insulted and hit me on my face with a bottle of water and then started beating me with his guards," he said.

According to the Afghanistan Media law, every person has the right to freedom of thought and speech, which includes the right to seek, obtain and disseminate information and views within the limit of law without any interference, restriction and threat by the government or officials. The right also includes free activity and means of publication, distribution, and reception of information.

The law also states that the government shall support, strengthen, and guarantee the freedom of mass media; except as authorized under this law, no real or legal person including government and government offices may ban, prohibit, censor or limit the informational activities of mass media or otherwise interfere in their affairs.

The AFJC expresses serious concerns about the increase of such incidents of violations against reporters at a critical time when the process of voters' registration for the presidential and local council elections is months away.

The AFJC calls on the Afghan government to ensure the freedom of media activities by ensuring security and supporting reporters' rights by holding the violators accountable for their acts.

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