Afghanistan: Broadcast of Colombian singer censored

20 November 2007

Senior Muslim clerics and members of Afghanístan’s Ministry of Culture warned the country’s largest private television station Tolo TV of “serious consequences” and possible legal action following the broadcast of a concert by Shakira, even though Tolo TV had covered her chest with computer pixellation.A performance by the Colombian pop star Shakira has provoked a row between the Afghan government and the country’s independent media, reports Tom Coghlan from Kabul for the British newspaper Daily Telegraph

State television broadcast interviews with clerics and members of parliament criticising the concert while one newspaper claimed that the “notorious” broadcast of a “naked US pop singer and dancer” provides inspiration to suicide bombers.

The owner of Tolo TV, Saad Mohseni, said: “This was not that provocative and Shakira was pixellated. The government are looking for an excuse to have a go at us.”

Tom Coghlan writes that the incident “is the latest sign of a growing fight back by the country’s powerful conservative establishment against the tide of Western-backed liberal reforms since the fall of the Taliban government in 2001.”

New restrictions
The article by Tom Coghlan gives an insight into the battle which presently takes place between liberals and conservatives in Afghanistan:

“Draconian new media legislation is soon to be signed into law by President Hamid Karzai after it was recently approved by the Kabul parliament. The measures will give the government greater powers to limit broadcasts that are deemed damaging to Afghanistan and its culture, primarily by forcing television stations to carry more religious programmes or face going off air.

Afghanistan’s constitution guarantees the provisions of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, which include freedom of speech and expression. But it also includes a prominent article which states that “no law can be contrary to the provisions and practices of Islam”.

This has proved a battleground between liberals and conservatives particularly in relation to restrictions within Islam’s Sharia laws, most notably those on blasphemy. Tolo TV has been frequently criticised for broadcasting Western-style programmes including versions of MTV, Oprah and Pop Idol.”

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Source – 18 November 2007:
‘Shakira broadcast sparks row in Afghanistan’

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