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Afghan government bans Al-Jazeera programs on local TV station

Afghan government bans Al-Jazeera programs on local TV station

The government ordered an Afghan TV station to suspend broadcasts of Al-Jazeera's English-language programs, the station's director said Tuesday.
A statement from Lemar TV said the Ministry of Information and Culture, which oversees media in Afghanistan, did not provide reasons for the order. The station complied, but contested the order before the Supreme Court on Tuesday.
The Lemar statement said the ministry sent a letter to the attorney general's office stating that Al-Jazeera is "inflicting a killer blow to the cultural order and the legal authority of the government."
Lemar's director, Saad Mohseni, e-mailed a copy of Minister of Information and Culture Abdul Karim Khurram's letter to The Associated Press, but its authenticity could not immediately be verified. Ministry officials could not immediately be reached for comment.
Ahmad Sameer Samimi, chief of staff at the attorney general's office, would not confirm the authenticity of the letter and declined to comment, saying the office is working on the case.
Mohseni said the attorney general's office sent a letter on Sunday ordering Lemar to stop broadcasting Al-Jazeera. Lemar, which for five months has featured about three hours of Al-Jazeera news programming per day, suspended the shows Sunday afternoon.
Mohseni said there was no legal justification for the ban, but the station decided to suspend programming for now.
"Given that we promote institution building and the importance of abiding by Afghanistan's laws, we felt it may be best to comply with the demands of the attorney general's office," Mohseni told The Associated Press.
"In Afghanistan, it's a bit like people are guilty until proven innocent," he said, adding that once the station stopped transmission, it could then sort out the problem with the ministry.
A spokeswoman for Al-Jazeera English in Doha, Qatar, said it also had received a letter from Khurram, which stated that the suspension was a licensing issue and has nothing to do with programming.
"It is absolutely not related to the nature of the programs aired," she said, quoting Khurram's letter. "We will be pleased to welcome (the programs) in our country."
Mohseni said that the station delivered a four-page submission arguing the legality of transmission to the Supreme Court on Tuesday, and that Lemar will try to bring back programming as soon as possible.
The ban on Al-Jazeera comes amid widespread concern that media rights were being quashed by the government. A proposed media law that will soon go before Parliament would make it illegal for journalists to report stories "that harm the physical, spiritual and moral well-being of people."
Doha-based Al-Jazeera began English newscasts on Nov. 15 to an estimated 80 million homes on cable and satellite TV. The station, an offshoot of the Arabic-language Al-Jazeera, mainly reaches viewers in the Middle East and Europe.
Cable operators in Afghanistan are still free to broadcast Al-Jazeera.


Updated : 2021-10-24 11:43 GMT+08:00