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Saturday, 9 February, 2002, 16:33 GMT
Afghanistan gets new press law
Television ariel
Television was banned as un-Islamic by the Taleban
By the BBC's Michael Voss in Kabul

A new law guaranteeing freedom of the press in Afghanistan has been formally inaugurated.


People can criticise us as much as they want

Afghan interim leader Hamid Karzai
At a brief ceremony at the presidential palace in Kabul, the Minister of Information and Culture, Said Makhtoum Rahim, handed over the new press freedom bill which was signed into law by the head of the interim government, Hamid Karzai.

The new law gives written guarantees for a free press, and Mr Karzai said it left Afghan journalists free to criticise the government.

"People can have their newspapers, people can have their radios and they can write things, they can criticise us as much as they want," he said.

Censorship

The new law ends years of censorship and a total ban on free speech under the former Taleban regime.

Film being edited
Broadcasting remains state controlled
Television was banned while radio and print offered little more than propaganda for the former regime.

Any form of criticism was ruthlessly suppressed.

BBC Kabul correspondent Kate Clark was thrown out of the country a year ago as the Taleban prepared to destroy the famous statues of Buddha in Bamiyan province.

"I used to wake up in the middle of the night agonising over reports that I had made because I didn't want anyone to get into serious trouble," she says.

"It did feel that dangerous. People risked their lives to tell me information."

The fall of the Taleban has seen one of the freest periods of publishing since the communist coup 20 years ago.

Independent

Broadcasting and most papers remain state-controlled, but a number of independent magazines are now available on the streets of Kabul.

Among them is a weekly magazine called 'Women's Mirror', the first publication in Afghanistan written exclusively by women for a female readership.

Some writers here have already started to ask questions about corruption and accountability.

But ensuring such freedom of expression in a country where local warlords control many of the provinces could prove a major test of Hamid Karzai's administration.

See also:

19 Nov 01 | South Asia
Kabul goes film crazy
29 Jan 02 | South Asia
Return of the Afghan cinema
13 Jan 02 | South Asia
New era for Afghan television
23 Jul 00 | South Asia
Taleban rules out lifting TV ban
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