Kabulpress.org today received a copy of an official letter from the Afghanistan Telecommunication Regulatory Authority (ATRA) to the Ariana Network Service Company (ANSC) ordering it to block Kabulpress.org’s website on its servers in Afghanistan. ANSC is one of Afghanistan’s largest Internet service providers and a branch of the large Afghan/American tele-communications company, TSI, based in Ft. Lee, New Jersey that includes the Afghanistan-based Ariana Television Network, Ariana FM Radio, and the Afghan Wireless cell phone network.
The letter, dated January 7, 2010, and signed by Engineer Khair Mohammad Faizi, Executive Board Member and Chairman of the Presidential ATRA instructs ANSC to immediately block www.kabulpress.org and another Afghan news website for “publishing articles in opposition to prominent political figures and senior government officials.”
Staff at Kabulpress.org began noticing earlier this year that its page view count from Afghanistan, normally totaling 200,000+ per month was steadily decreasing, while complaints from users stating they could not connect were increasing. At that time, rumors and sources in the government informed Kabulpress.org staff that the Afghan government was censoring select news sites, including Kabulpress.org. The letter contained in this article is confirmation of that fact.
Kabulpress.org editor-in-chief, Kamran Mir Hazar stated, “it is very distressing that the Afghan government has taken this step, but given the high level of government censorship that occurs within Afghanistan’s borders, we expected Karzai and his ministers would try to extend their reach outside of Afghanistan. This is especially a slap in the face of the American people who support a free press but spend billions of dollars in Afghanistan to support a government that has made such a fascist move. The American people need to know who they are dealing with.”
Image of the original letter in Dari.
Here is the English translation:
Islamic Republic of Afghanistan
Afghanistan Telecommunication Regulatory Authority (ATRA)
1388/ 10/ 17 (Thursday, January 7, 2010)
Number: 8071/ 5114
To: Ariana Network Service Company
Please be advised:
According to reliable information, the websites www.afghanpaper.com and www.kabulpress.com have been publishing articles in opposition to prominent political figures and senior government officials.
You are hereby directed to block those websites in your network without delay and ensure this office of the implementation of this order.
Engineer Khair Mohammad Faizi
Executive Board Member and Chairman of the Presidential ATRA
Here is the email sent to Kabulpress.org from ANSC responding to an inquiry by Kamran Mir Hazar:
From: Sultan Aziz Popal [aziz.popal afghan-wireless.com]
Sent: Monday, April 26, 2010 9:48 AM
To: editor kabulpress.org
Cc: Farhad Azizi; Amanullah Ehsan (Tsiglobe); Vishal Rattanpal; Rohullah Habibzadah; Haji Ismael shahsamand
Subject: RE: banned 188.8.131.52 www.kabulpress.org
This is to inform you that ANS was instructed to block the IP based on attached official letter (dated: 17/10/1388) by ATRA, asking ANS to Ban the website immediately.
EM of ANS
"The most ironic part of this situation is that Karzai is purchasing the hardware, software, and expertise for Internet filtering from Iran, one of the world’s experts in electronic censorship. When they receive this equipment, they will be able to block nearly 100% of any Internet traffic that displeases them. Will radio jamming of BBC and Voice of America be next? Iran can sell Karzai that technology too," added Mir Hazar.