Leadership Council for Human Rights

~ Feet in the mud, head in the sky ~

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Media restrictions highlight larger culture war looming in Afghanistan

The ongoing controversy over the broadcasting of two Indian-made drama series is proving to be a key test for Afghanistan’s democratization process, EurasiaNet.org reported Monday.

Prominent religious conservatives have become bitterly outspoken against the dramas, contending that they are “un-Islamic” and offensive to Afghan culture. Yet these arguments seem to run contrary to the opinions of everyday Afghans. According to the article, 90 percent of all televisions are tuned into the two programs when they air. However, in spite of their popularity, the individuals opposed to the programs succeeded in getting the Afghanistan Ministry of Culture to call on the Moby Media Group to cut them.

Ignoring the ban and labeling it illegal, Moby media, which controls the broadcasting of the two series, is looking to frame the debate in terms of democratic freedoms versus religious extremism.

“What we are seeing is the re-Talibanization [of Afghanistan]… by stealth,” said Saad Mohseni, whose family controls Moby.

Believing that “a small group of individuals has hijacked the system,” Saad and his brother Jahid have been touring the United States hoping to garner attention to a fight they see as critical to the future of Afghanistan.

The Mohseni brothers are not alone in their concern over the issue. Karin Karlekar, a senior media analyst with Freedom House, agrees with the Mohsenis’ view of the dispute. “The ban is part of a larger attempt to undermine freedom of expression,” Karlekar said, adding, “Commentators have pointed out that some factions of the government may be trying to deal with the Taliban, and are catering to more conservative trends. I would definitely not rule out linking this to elections.”

For the full article, click here.


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