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Afghan government to block websites "against the Afghani culture and Islamic rules”

Sources: Kabulpress.org included on list of websites to be banned in Afghanistan
Robert Maier
Wednesday 3 June 2009

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KabulPress.org has heard from several sources in and outside of Afghanistan that the Afghan Minister of Information and Communications Technology, and the Ministry of Culture plan to filter what they perceive to be “harmful” websites, and that KabulPress.org is at the top of the list.

Kabulpress.org Editor-in-Chief, Kamran Mir Hazar, said today,

“I spoke with several journalists in Kabul, and they said yes the cultural ministry and communication ministry are providing a list of websites to filter. The main target would be KabulPress. I also spoke with a friend who runs an ISP in Afghanistan, who said he had not received an official letter, but he knows that the Communications Ministry has plans to start filtering the Internet in Afghanistan.”

According to the Ministry of Communications Website, in an address on May 17, the Communications Minister, Amir Zai Sangin, stated “those websites which are against the Afghani culture and Islamic rules will be controlled.” Since this address was given under the theme of “Protecting Children in Cyber Space” it might be assumed that the control will extend only to websites with pornographic content. However the broad area of generalization has several Afghan news providers, ISPs and politically-oriented websites concerned that they will be falsely labeled un-Islamic, and therefore banned.

On Saturday May 30, it was widely reported in Afghanistan that Parliament approved a communication law that included a section on the Internet, but specific details of the law’s contents have not been available.

Mir Hazar stated, “If the Afghan Supreme Court can sentence student journalist, Parwiz Kambakhsh, to 20 years in prison for allegedly circulating a document on women in Islam, and powerful Afghan media outlets like Tolo-TV and Ariana -TV are warned not to present stories unfavorable to the government, then it follows that the Afghan government is acquiring the equipment and expertise to block access to any website it considers politically “harmful.”

“However,”Mir Hazar, continued “The Internet is a place where power and money do not always rule, so it is not possible to filter Internet sites completely. Other governments, including Cuba, Iran, and China, try block political websites, but computer experts in those have developed simple and effective methods for residents in those countries to avoid filtering.

Our Dari section has begun publishing these methods so its readers will still be able to access Kabulpress and other political sites that may be banned. Our readers are already responding with gratitude for this information. They do not want to lose access to Kabulpress.
It is technologically very difficult to completely filter a website, because there are so many ways to work around filters. It is mostly a sad comment on the efforts to develop a democracy in Afghanistan that Afghanistan may join Cuba, Iran, and China in their well-known blocking of free speech.”

Kabulpress.org will strongly condemn actions that attempt block or filter it. Kabulpress.org is an important source of news, discussion and commentary in Afghanistan and to Afghans around the world. It receives nearly 1 million page views a month in Afghanistan, making it the most viewed Afghan news and information website. Its filtering would be a tragedy for the Afghan people and for all who hope for and have invested both blood and treasure in a democratic Afghanistan.

Kabulpress English pages editor, writer, video producer and educator.

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