Showing posts with label media. Show all posts
Showing posts with label media. Show all posts

Jan 21, 2013

War for Words: Freedom of Speech After America Leaves Afghanistan

Afghan writers and reporters face a worsening situation. Some fear that the gains made for freedom of speech will disappear with the drawdown of foreign forces.

Prominent Afghan writer Taqi Bakhtiari has been condemned to death over his latest book Gumnani (Anonymity) by fundamentalist Afghan Shiite clerics. The clerics, who are tied to the Qom School in Iran, refer to Bakhtiari as “the little Salman Rushdie.” The news was first published on Deutsche Welle Farsi website and went viral on social networking websites, especially Facebook. Later BBC Persian also published a report detailing the issue.

Gumnani is about Mirjan, a young Afghan Shiite from the Hazara minority, who travels to Iran to study in a Madrasa. After being accepted into a religious Madrasa in Isfahan, Mirjan is raped by his Iranian teacher, an Ayatollah.

Facing abuse and mistreatment from his Iranian Ayatollah, the young Afghan boy’s dream for religious studies is shattered and he ends his studies. Mirjan starts reading unreligious books and later returns back to Afghanistan. In Afghanistan the young boy experience constant upheavals disillusioned and depressed. Though Mirjan grew up as a religious boy with tribal traditions guiding him, the rape by his Ayatollah changes Mirjan and he becomes an atheist, criticizing religious beliefs.

Bakhtiari, the writer of the story has said to the BBC that the story is based on true events. Criticism of religious figures, especially Ayatollahs who are high authorities in Islamic Shiite jurisprudence, is unusual among the Afghan Shiite minority. Continue reading on openDemocracy...

Oct 2, 2011

In Afghanistan, 'A Generation of Hope and Change'

In some countries, young people have led in bringing change. In 2010, in Egypt and Tunisia, they toppled the government; in Iran, they have become the biggest and longest threat to the theocratic regime. In Iran, over 60 percent of 75 the million people in the country are under 30 years old. In Afghanistan, according to a United Nations report in 2008, 68 percent are under 25 years of age.

Traditionally, Afghan youth as a group have been quiet and never caused trouble. That may be changing. The Tunisian and Egyptian uprisings that spilled over to many other Arab countries have also inspired the Afghan youth.

Facebook and Twitter played a critical role in the Arab spring. Many Afghan young people were following the news of Arab uprisings carefully, and as regimes collapsed one after another, dozens of Facebook pages have sprung up calling for change in Afghanistan. A Facebook page like Love Afghanistan encourages Pashtun, Tajik, Hazara and Uzbek to unite. A similar page called "I love my glorious Afghanistan" promotes patriotism among its 9,000 members. The members debate questions like “when are we going to learn that unity is the only weapon to vanquish our enemies and is the best tool to make a better future for our Afghanistan?” Continue reading on the Nieman Watchdog...

Apr 11, 2011

Daunting News: Egyptian Blogger Sentenced to 3 Years Jail

Daunting news from Egypt in post-mubarakism surprised the world by jailing a blogger for three years. It shocked people because even in the Mubarak era, jailing bloggers was not as common as these last two months after Mubarak was forced to leave the power.

The only and the first case during Mubarak was Kareem Amir who was sentenced to 4 years in jail because of allegedly insulting Islam and Husni Mubarak. According to BBC, Maikel Nabil was arrested last month for blog posts where he criticized the role of the Egyptian Army during anti-government uprising. Based AFP, a military court sentenced him to three years in prison.

The Maikel Nabil case harks back to Mubarak era; it seems the Army is still remaining in its authoritarian nature and it would likely be hard to expect changes in institutions like the military. It clearly tells us that Egyptian Army does not tolerate criticism and it raises lots of unanswered questions about whether people’s efforts would finally succeed to a democratic society or not, was it worth it to sacrifice and how much power people have to change the governmental institutions. Anyway, the Maikel Nabil case is shocking and it makes the world look at post-mubarakism with doubt. Those who understand the nature of the Egyptian authoritarian regime which was headed by Husni Mubarak over the past 30 years will understand the nature of the Egyptian military and its court sentence for an internet activist and blogger of three years imprisonment.

We should not forget that it was Egyptian bloggers who were at the forefront of uprising since the beginning of uprising. I shall later write a separate piece more specifically on the role of blogging in the Egyptian revolution. It was the famous blogger, Khaled Said who was dragged from a cybercafe out into the street and beaten by police which led to his death. His death on June 12, 2010, outraged Alexandria’s residents and ultimately inspired many to stand up against Egyptian authoritarian regime which was headed by Husni Mubarak. Once again, even today, when in the case of Maikel Nabil proved that blogs continue to play an important role among traditional media, which is controlled by the state, but ultimately the uprising was caused by the bloggers who had relative freedom but not without intimidation and serious threat to their lives.

Feb 8, 2011

I blog, therefore I am

Have you ever heard the saying "I think, therefore I am?" Well, that is a philosophical phrase said by Rene Descartes, a 17th century French philosopher. He simply wanted to demonstrate his existence and to prove that he is capable of thinking, therefore he is alive. I've twisted the phrase to "I blog, therefore I am."

Today, we are in the 21st century and to simply regurgitate what Descartes has already said, we get a palpable meaning of "I think, therefore I am. It goes beyond its existentialism definition. Perhaps Descartes was trying to explore the reason of existence philosophically, but if he had lived today and been able to observe the changes in today's world, he probably would have said something different.

He would see how much the world has changed and, with today's powerful mass communication tools like the internet, everyone has the ability to express themselves and demonstrate that they are because they are able to think and create things. We, as human beings, should be different from other species on the planet. What is that? That could be our identity, the identity that Descartes wondered about and inspired him to say that "I think, therefore I am."

That is what we are, therefore I am; I am to think, to be productive, creative, and innovative. I am because I can think, I can create, I live better, I change things, I can help others and that can bring changes to him or her. Therefore, I am. I blog about the people, culture, society, and politics, because I am. I blog to express myself, to prove that I am, to prove that I can still think, write, and be creative. I blog to let people know how and what I am thinking. I blog because I am interested in politics, culture, and, more importantly, in the issues of the Middle East and Afghanistan.

Feb 1, 2011

Too early to judge Egyptian uprising

Of course everyone is in a state of bewilderment, especially those who follow the news on Egypt's upheavals. For the last hours I have been reading some confusing opinion which were saying that Egypt will meet the same fate that Iran did. It is simply an assumption that doesn't necessarily represent or relate to the major theme but it can be counted as a concern.

We should not be confused or naively believe in what we hear from news channels. They are still struggling to realize what to do, how to frame their news, what their narratives should be regarding to Egypt upheavals. But one thing is clear to us that all these news channels are trying their best to cover the uprising.

One thing has been vexing me for the last few hours that the Western media are trying to portray the Egyptian uprising as a pro-democracy movement. Of course it's up to them what kind of narrative or interpretation they give out to their audience but if we carefully look at those placards and slogans that are expressed and shown for the last days, non of them represent democracy neither Islamic fundamentalism belief that the U.S and other Western countries scared of.

One thing is pretty much obvious that the Egyptian protesters are out there mostly because of their daily concerns that they are angry about. The participants are from a variety of socio-economic backgrounds, they mainly focused on a number of issues which are important in their daily life, such as legal and political issues, police brutality, state of emergency laws, lack of free elections and free speech, widespread corruption, economic issues including high unemployment rate, food price inflation and low minimum wages.

Now, it is too early to call it Islamic movement or pro-democracy movement. The protesters will is to simply say good bye with a period of widespread corruption, inequality, oppressive and authoritarian regime which ruled by Hosni Mubarak for 30 years after Gamal Abdel Nasser assassinated in 1970.

Jan 31, 2011

China and Iran Censor News from Egypt

As Egypt uprising enters its seven day and makes its way to the entire Middle East, some countries already shocked and have fears that their citizens might be provoked against their governments. Chinese government has already started blocking micro-blogs that talk about Egyptian unrest.

At the same time, Iranian government enforced censorship of the news from Egypt on its news channels. Not only news channels forced to censor news from Egypt, the Iranian regime also blocked he BBC and social networks Facebook and Twitter.

For the last days, hundreds of Iranian bloggers were also complaining about news channels that they abstained publishing images of protesters in Egypt. They also have been saying that the Iranian news channels incessantly called the Egyptian uprising an Islamic movement against corruption, secularism and against the government which was pro-Israel and the United States.

On popular community website "balatarin" Iranian bloggers discuss that for the last 48 hours, Iranian TV channels talked about the Muslim Brotherhood and called them the right party to take control of the country.

Sep 27, 2010

At the UN Week Digital Media Lounge

I spent two days last week in New York, having been invivted by Oxfam to cover the events of UN Week, and the Summit on the Millennium Development Goals. These were the final two days, and they were packed full with many great events happening Here I highlight just a few of the many inspirational, informative, and occasionally troubling events that highlighted UN Week Digital Media Lounge.

Thursday morning kicked off with an Oxfam breakfast disccussion about the Pakistani flood, which is affecting more people than the Tsunami of 2004, the Earthquake in Haiti, or Hurricane Katrina. The guest speaker was Dr. Donya Aziz, Pakistan’s youngest MP, and a long term advocate for health, education and womens empowerment in Pakistan. The program was moderated by Øistein Moskvil Thorsen, a humanitarian campaigner for the Oxfam. While by now it is common knowledge among international humanitarians that

The discussion focussd on the continuing effects of the flood. While it has been more than a month since the flood began, 430 people have been killed, more than 20 million people have been affected, thousands of whom remain in desperate need of aid, Dr. Aziz highlighted important aspects of catastrophe that rarely heard from conventional media. For example, a massive amount of crops were destroyed in the flood, which occurred soon before the seasonal harvast, so one of the lingering effects of the flood will be a massive food shortage and the economic impact of food shock.

While Dr. Aziz was talking about the flood and its devastation in Pakistan, USAID Administrator Dr. Raj Shah took part in a discussion moderated by Sen. Tim Wirth, Presidentof the UN Foundation. Though USAID has made major contributions o humanitarian aid relief in Pakistan, Shah took the opportunity to discuss a different issue, he Obama Administration’s domestic and international economic development. He made special mention of public-private partnerships, and the importance of bringing in businesses to invest more in global health problems. As an example, he invoked the work of Coca-Cola and their announcement to empower five million female entrepreneurs by 2020. Shah also spoke of “mutual accountability” as the fundamental driver of how USAID wants to operate.

The week also included the annual reveal of the top ten CNN Heroes of 2010. This is an annual television special created by CNN to honor individuals making extraordinary contributions to helping others. This year’s panel of judges included Muhammad Ali the former champion boxer.

The UN Week Digital Media Lounge was presented by Mashable, 92Y and the UN Foundation. The summit consisted of a week’s worth of activities revolving around how social media can be used to tackle some of the world’s social challenges and issues.

Jul 7, 2010

Afghanistan's not-so-free press

In November 2008, I received a phone call at my home in Afghanistan from Information Safety and Freedom (ISF) an Italian nongovernmental organization that supports free speech, notifying me that I (and Sayed Pervez Kambaksh, a journalism student at Balkh University), were the two international journalists to receive its award. The winners, I was told, would travel to Italy for an awards ceremony. But I knew that would be impossible -- Kambaksh was in Kabul's prison. In October 2007, Afghan police arrested him for blasphemy, after he allegedly downloaded and distributed information about the role of women in Islamic societies, and he was sentenced to death in early 2008. His sentence was later commuted to 20 years in prison, after outcries from Afghan journalists and right groups. I received the ISF award for my work on a weekly satire cartoon magazine and blog, which was shut down in 2004. I received numerous death threats and was forced to leave the country for seven months that year. Continue reading...

Feb 15, 2009

At Duke University

It is almost a week I am in US at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina on a fellowship program about media.
As a Duke Media Fellow, we attend special seminars about media and democracy, led by Duke University faculty, leading journalists and guest lecturers. We are also be able to attend regular Duke University classes and work with faculty and staff to pursue independent projects.

It is great opportunity to learn from other fellows about media challenges in US, France, Germany, South Africa and Georgia. For more information about this program, please visit this website for this program.

May 25, 2005

Vote for the first Afghan blogger to win the Blog Awards!

Vote for the first Afghan Blogger!
An Afghan blogger who blogs from inside Afghanistan is selected to International competition of Freedom Blog Awards in RSF.

Reporters Without Borders is calling on Internet-users to vote online for award-winners from among 60 blogs defending freedom of expression. There are six categories: Africa and the Middle East, the Americas, Asia, Europe, Iran and International:

Blogs have become significant sources of news for millions of Internet-users. blogs can relay comments, articles and opinions that are not necessarily broadcasted by the major media. Although, weblogs are not a major medium of communication in Afghanistan but this demonstrates Afghans endeavor for freedom. Sohrab Kabuli (Pen name) has paid heavily for free expression.

Please take a moment and register your vote here:
To Vote:〈=en
To Vote:〈=en

Select the "shared Pain"(; enter your E-mail address – it’s compulsory.

Each Internet-user may vote for only one blog in each category. Please note: your vote will only be counted if you click on the acknowledgement of receipt which will be sent by email. Voting closes on 1st June 2005 and the prize-winners will be announced two weeks later.

Related materials:
Afghan Journalists Awarded for their hard work towards free speech
Free Kambakhsh!
Eventi a cui ha partecipato Nasim Fekrat - Audio
Nasim in Val di Susa
Una mattina a Siena per la libertà in Afghanistan- Video+picture
Tactic: Afghan blogger wins free speech award

Why I am the Freedom of Expression Award Winner?

Afghan Lord awarded the freedom of expression blog awards in Reporters Without Borders.