The Afghan parliament on Sunday opposed the amendments to the mass media law proposed by the government that activists say will restrict the freedom of press in Afghanistan.
The mass media law that was enacted in 2006 has 54 articles and now the government has proposed amendments to at least 13 articles of the law, something that has been harshly criticized by 20 prominent Afghan media outlets and journalists’ rights organizations.
Critics say the amendments would allow censorship before and after publication, and based on the proposed amendments, “unnecessary” and “vast” authority would be granted to the government’s monitoring organizations. Also some advantages and rights of media and journalists would be excluded and the independence of the National TV might be compromised – among other restrictions and amendments highlighted by journalists’ rights organizations.
The deputy head of the Afghan parliament, Mohammad Mirza Katawazai, said the legislative commission of the Wolesi Jirga is investigating the proposed draft and that efforts to impose restrictions on freedom of speech and freedom of media amid the peace negotiations “is concerning and will not be accepted.”
He said that based on their initial findings, possible reviews of the law are aimed at imposing limitations on freedom of speech.
“Our only achievement in the last two decades is our media and we will not accept any limitations on the activities of the media,” Katawazai said.
An official of the Ministry of Information and Culture said discussions have started with media leaders on the review of mass media law.
“We are on the verge of consultations. Some amendments have been proposed to the (mass media) law. The government has the pride to be a supporter of the media, if (the proposed) issues are not accepted by media owners and the civil society,” said Abdul Mannan Shewa Sharq, the deputy minister of information and culture for publication.
Some critics fear that any limitations on media activities will endanger the achievements of the last two decades in Afghanistan that have been achieved after the killing of thousands of Afghan and foreign forces.
“If this sector is affected, Afghanistan will lose its achievements of the last 20 years. I hope that we can preserve these achievements,” said Aziz Rafiee, head of the civil society association of Afghanistan.