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Tuesday, July 20, 1999 Published at 07:14 GMT 08:14 UK

World: South Asia

TV beatsTaleban telly-ban

Taleban leaders have banned TV in all areas the movement controls

By William Reeve in Feyzabad

Sitting on a mountainside in the remote north-eastern Afghan province of Badakhshan, an area held by the anti-Taleban alliance, is a television station that breaks many records, most of them at the small end of the scale.

Running off a 4 kW generator, it has an audience of just 5,000 in the provincial capital, Feyzabad.

But its significance lies in the fact that it's one of only two television stations in the country.

The Taleban have found television to be un-Islamic and haved closed stations in the areas which they control, which means most of Afghanistan.

[ image:  ]
A year ago, the Taleban gave Kabul residents 15 days to surrender their televisions, after which any sets found intact were smashed by Taleban police.

An anti-aircraft gun guards Badakhshan's only television station sitting on a hill overlooking Feyzabad. There's a road most of the way up to the station but the last stage of the journey can only be made on foot.

Technical problems

Against all the odds, the station manages to broadcast 20 hours of programmes per week. The equipment is very old and the head of the station, Engineer Mohammaddin, says that when it breaks down repairs have to be improvised on the spot as there are no spare parts.

Surrounded by mountains in the foothills of the Hindu Kush the maximum broadcast range is 15km. But Mr Mohammaddin says the problem is not so much transmitting programmes as recording them.

There are only three old cameras and all the production, recording and broadcasting is carried out in one room.

There's no special newsreader and whoever of the staff is around at the time reads the bulletin.

News is collected around Feyzabad and also from other parts of Afghanistan held by the anti-Taleban alliance.

Audience for Rambo

Mr Mohammaddin says sometimes BBC World television is recorded and re-broadcast but only if one of the staff who speaks English is around at the time.

[ image: In the mountains of Afghanistan, a low-powered signal has a limited range]
In the mountains of Afghanistan, a low-powered signal has a limited range
Otherwise the station shows films - Turkish, Iranian, American, Indian and old Afghan ones. But Mr Mohammaddin said only films that are "proper" are shown, adding that a special commission had censored out what he called the inappropriate bits.

A Rambo film which was set although not filmed in Afghanistan was recently screened for the eager audience in Feyzabad, all of whom have to run their televisions off generators. The mains electricity in the town, run off a small hydro-electric power plant, is too weak to power TV sets.

Mr Mohammaddin says that one of the main problems is the shortage of video cassettes. And the ones the station has are in poor shape, as programmes have been recorded on them so many times.

The station itself was built 14 years ago and Mr Mohammaddin, a native of Badakhshan, has been working there since soon after it made its first broadcast.

The only other television station in Afghanistan broadcasts from Charikar, 50km north of Kabul, just over the front line which divides the Taleban and opposition forces.

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