Journalists on Tuesday cautiously reacted to the decision by the Afghan government to recall the amended draft of the mass media law from the parliament until the draft is further discussed with the media outlets and in the cabinet. 

President Ghani said in a cabinet meeting that the Afghan government has always been committed to supporting the freedom of speech and enhancing the media activities and that “fortunately, we have no one in custody on charges of violating freedom of speech.”

Ghani’s spokesman Sediq Sediqqi on Tuesday said that now there will be a broader debate on the context and elements of the proposed amendment.

“Perhaps it was not discussed in the cabinet, and until we got there, we didn’t see any media protests,” said Sediq Sediqqi, a spokesman for President Ashraf Ghani.

Meanwhile, media-supporting organizations and journalists have said that the proposed amendments in the mass media law would have added unauthorized government control to press activities. 

“The government is trying to impose restrictions,” said Esraeel Naseri, a journalist in Kabul.

“If the government wants to bring amendments, it should refer the amendments to the national assembly for debate,” said Nematullah Karyab, head of parliament’s cultural affairs commission.

“The record is with us, the views and perspectives of some of the media-supporting bodies were asked about the proposed amendments,” said Jaffar Rasteen, the head of publication department of the Ministry of Information and Culture.


Concerns over a possible amendment have gained momentum in the four days since at least 20 Afghan media outlets and media-supporting organizations in an open letter to Ghani raised their concerns about the possibility of restrictions on the media and on freedom of speech due to government-proposed amendments to the mass media law that was enacted in 2006.

The 2006 mass media law has 54 articles.

The new amendments have been approved by the cabinet and the draft is set to be sent to the parliament for ratification.

The letter mentions that the proposed amendments are in contravention of Articles 7, 34, 120 and 122 of Afghanistan’s Constitution.

The six chapters and 59 articles of the mass media law have been approved by the cabinet and are expected to be sent to the parliament for approval. However, some amendments suggested by the government on at least 13 articles of the law have sparked a strong backlash from the Afghan media.

Article 34 of the constitution says, “freedom of expression shall be inviolable” and “every Afghan shall have the right to express thoughts through speech, writing, illustrations as well as other means in accordance with provisions of this constitution.”

It also says that “every Afghan shall have the right, according to provisions of law, to print and publish on subjects without prior submission to state authorities.”

The new amendments have been approved by the cabinet and the draft is set to be sent to the parliament for ratification.

Article 6 of the mass media law says Journalists shall have the right to avoid disclosing their source of information, except when a competent court orders the disclosure. But the amended draft says that the source of information can be disclosed to government institutions such as police, NDS and the Attorney General’s Office.

The amendments suggest before and after publication censorship, and the letter in protest states that government institutions have provided “unnecessary” and “vast” authority to the government’s monitoring organizations, some advantages and rights of media and journalists have been excluded and the independence of the National TV has been questioned – among other restrictions and amendments.

Paving the way for more censorship of media work, obtaining new licenses for the use of foreign publications, and facilitating the abolition of media work licenses are other activities that are considered restrictive of media work in the country.



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