Internet Crackdown in Kabul

The Communications Ministry has been discussing with telecommunication service providers in Kabul to launch filtering systems for controlling the internet. Authorities say the restriction is aimed at banning contents violating the “Islamic culture” and “Afghan traditions”. The Ministry says pornographic, gambling and other “immoral” and “anti-Afghanistan” websites would be banned access.

This issue had raised a hot crossfire in the parliament earlier. MPs were demanding ban on websites and sources against the Islamic culture. Culture and Information Ministry has already drawn a list of “immoral” websites and the Communications Ministry is now asking the telecommunication providers to ban access to the websites directed by the ministry. As far as pornographic, dating and gambling websites are concerned, the move would not be a big problem, but the fear is that such a move is primarily aimed at banning online political criticism on websites and blogs.  For instance a famous political commentary website Kabulpress has been the first target. According to the website, Communications Ministry has sent a letter to the internet service providers to block access of users in Afghanistan to that website. The website claims it has got that letter as proof, which is put online on the website. For such moves, the “immoral” and “anti-Islamic contents” become an excuse for violating the basic right of access to information. It would be in violation to the constitution.

Freedom of expression and free media has been one of the main success in Afghanistan for which Karzai sometimes claim credit, though real thanks should go to the international community. During the last eight years dozens of TV channels and newspapers have been established. Similarly, internet is being spread all across the country very fast and more and more people in different cities and provincial centers are having access to it. It has brought an information revolution. Today the social networking websites are very common in the western world. Websites such as Twitter and Facebook is used by majority of people.

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