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Free media abusing freedom of speech – Afghan information minister

BBC Monitoring

Text of report by Afghan independent Tolo TV on 23 August

[Presenter] The minister of information and culture has accused some independent media sources of exploiting freedom of speech.

Abdol Karim Khoram has not named any specific media source, but said a number of them have used freedom of speech as a means of making money.

Information and Culture Ministry officials were not available for comment.

[Correspondent] At a recent meeting with a number of members of the people's council of Qarabagh District [Kabul Province], the minister of information and culture accused some media sources of abusing freedom of speech.

[Abdol Karim Khoram, minister of information and culture] All the slogans of freedom of speech imported from Europe and the West are merely useless words. All these people, whether foreigners or Afghans, are involved in this. The foreigners take in bigger amounts of the money [money donated to fund media activities] then Afghans in senior posts, who receive a bit more money.

A bi! t of the money finally filters down to lower level staff. As Hajji Saheb said, it is all about cash transactions. No one cares about us and no one cares about freedom of speech.

[Correspondent] In reaction to remarks by Mr Khoram, a number of journalists say the government's behaviour towards the media is very negative. They say senior officials of the government of Afghanistan do not believe in freedom of speech, and that is why they are trying to impose limitations on media activities.

[Sanjar Qyam, head, Salam Watandar radio] We work with local radios. We have experienced cases of local radios being suppressed by government authorities just for airing programmes that the local authorities do not like.

But the minister's remarks disappoint us, because he is the senior government official observing media activities, and such remarks convey the wrong message to local authorities.

[Jawed Farhad, writer and journalist] The esteemed minister should alwa! ys understand that everything can be raised in a rational manner. If t he minister of information and culture, as someone in charge of managing the cultural policies of the government and as the government's cultural representative, says something like this, than I regret that the government of Afghanistan has such a minister managing its cultural affairs.

[Fahim Dashti, spokesman, National Union of Journalists] If you see all the big media sources in the world, they have to find sources of income to meet their expenses. This is a part and parcel of journalism in the world. I think there is no logic in saying that some people use freedom of speech for business, or use freedom of speech as a means of filling their pockets.

[Correspondent] A number of journalists say the accusations leveled against independent media sources is the beginning of limitation on free media. They say the government of Afghanistan is trying to develop frameworks for the activities of independent media sources, and a part of this campaign is being carried out! by the Ministry of Information and Culture.

Source: Tolo TV, Kabul, in Dari 1330 gmt 23 Aug 07


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