Thursday December 12, 2019
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Afghans Fear End of Press Freedom

Afghanistan is the world's deadliest place for journalists

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Afghans, Press Freedom
While in power, the Taliban raged against traditional forms of mass communication. VOA

Beneath the gaze of the TV cameras a woman begins speaking, at first softly but with growing passion as she faces the “Butcher of Kabul” across a crowded auditorium and asks if he wants to apologise for alleged war crimes.

Without missing a beat, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, the ruthless former warlord blamed for rocket attacks which reduced much of the Afghan capital to rubble in the 1990s, declined to do so.

The dramatic moment during a recent televised news debate highlights how far media freedom has come in Afghanistan, where — for now — traumatised civilians can stand and at least try to hold powerful men to account, live on camera.

“Years ago, these kind of questions could get you killed, but now people can challenge the most dangerous people in mainstream and social media,” Mustafa Rahimi, a university student, said after watching the debate.

Afghans, Press Freedom
The dramatic moment during a recent televised news debate highlights how far media freedom has come in Afghanistan. VOA

But today, even as hundreds of media outlets proliferate across Afghanistan, consumers and journalists alike worry a potential peace deal between the Taliban and the US could sound the death knell for a golden age of press freedom.

“We are concerned about a total or a partial ban on media,” Sediqullah Khaliq, the director of Hewad TV and radio in Kandahar — the birthplace of Taliban — told AFP.

“There is fear that we may go back to a media blackout or having a state-controlled press.”

While in power, the Taliban raged against traditional forms of mass communication and entertainment, banning television, movies and allowing only Islamist programming or propaganda to be broadcast on the only radio station, Voice of Sharia.

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Anyone caught watching TV faced punishmentand risked having their television set smashed and then displayed from a lamppost.

Almost all electronic products were outlawed as un-Islamic. For a while, trees in Kabul fluttered with the magnetic ribbon tape from destroyed cassettes.
Photographs of living things were illegal, and ownership of a video player could lead to a public lashing.

Afghanistan is the world’s deadliest place for journalists, who face many risks covering the conflict and who have sometimes been targeted for doing their job.

Afghans, Press Freedom
Consumers and journalists alike worry a potential peace deal between the Taliban and the US could sound the death knell for a golden age of press freedom. VOA

Nine journalists, including AFP Kabul’s chief photographer Shah Marai, were killed in an Islamic State attack in April 2018.

Media watchdog group Reporters Without Borders (RSF) reported that 2018 was the deadliest year on record for journalists in Afghanistan, with at least 15 media workers killed while working.

Despite the risks, hundreds of media organizations have blossomed since 2001, and today there are more than 100 television channels, 284 radio stations and just over 400 newspapers and magazines, according to a government report.

With one of the world’s lowest literacy rates, television and radio play a huge role in Afghan culture, and Afghans have grown accustomed to outlets holding their politicians to account.

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Warlords, politicians, Taliban sympathisers and government officials are openly challenged in televised debates, radio programmes and on social media.

“We now play live music, women call in and share their problems on the radio. But even if the Taliban allow radios, I don’t think they would like our programs,” said Mera Hamdam, a presenter at Zama private radio in Kandahar. “There is huge concern that we will lose all our achievements,” he said.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said if they return to power, the insurgents would follow an Islamic interpretation of freedom of expression.

“We won’t allow propaganda, insults and humiliation to people in society and religious values. We will allow those who work for the betterment of the society,” he told AFP.

Afghans, Press Freedom
FILE – An Afghan shopkeeper, right, listens to Islamic State radio at his shop in Jalalabad. VOA

A sixth round of talks between the US and the Taliban wrapped up last week in Doha, with apparently little progress being made on several key issues.

The two foes have for months been trying to hammer out a deal that could see foreign forces leave Afghanistan in return for a ceasefire, talks between Kabul and the Taliban, and a guarantee the country will not be used as a safe haven for terror groups.

But observers worry that in a rush to quit Afghanistan after nearly 18 gruelling years of war, America might not push for safeguards of protections many Afghans now take for granted, including media freedoms and improved rights for women and other marginalised people.

“Freedom of expression as a protective value should be incorporated into any document resulting from peace talks,” NAI, a leading media support agency, said in a statement.

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Rahimi, the university student, said he worried about Afghanistan going back to “the dark era”. (VOA)

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India Today, Home to Many Tibetan, Afghans, Africans and Many Other Ethnic and Religious Minorities

There are many suburbs in Delhi where you find more foreign refugees than locals

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India, Tibetan, Afghans
Jews (also know as Yehudi) and Parsis (Zoroastrians) stand out in history. Pixabay

By: Surinder Jain

Hindus have been the most tolerant and accepting of people fleeing their homelands ever since people started fleeing their homes. Jews (also know as Yehudi) and Parsis (Zoroastrians) stand out in history. But India today, is also home to many Tibetan, Afghans, Africans and many other ethnic and religious minorities from al over the world. There are many suburbs in Delhi where you find more foreign refugees than locals. Local Hindus and every other Indian accepts them as a part of their family. India.

A very less known fact in Jewish history is the fact that India is the only country and Hindus are one community in the world where Jews have always been safe. The first dispersal of Jews happened with the destruction of their temple over 2,000 years ago and many Jews came to Chera dynasty kingdom on the ship of King Solomon. These Jews are known as Malabari Jews as they settled on the southern coast of India called Malabar coast.

They are also called Black Jews perhaps due to the evolution and adaptation of their skin colour to survive in hot temperate coastal climate of Kerala. Many evolutionary biologist believe that it takes not too many generations for any skin colour to adapt to black skin colour  in temperate climate. They also say that black skinned humans turn to white skin in a cold climate. As an aside, they also predict that human race when it settles on the planet Mars will evolve into pink skin humans to survive harsh Martian radiation.

Coming back to Jews, a second wave of Jew migrants came as refugees about 500 years ago to escape prosecution from Spanish and Portuguese inquisitions. These Jews were granted land to settle by a Hindu Chera king Bhaskar Ravi Varma who also granted them tax concessions and religious freedom. These Jews were white skinned and are known in India as Pardesi (foreign) Jews or White Jews as opposed to indigenous or Black Jews who had arrived 1500 years earlier. They established their own suburb on the land grant which even to this day is known as Jew Town in Kochi.

India, Tibetan, Afghans
Hindus have been the most tolerant and accepting of people fleeing their homelands ever since people started fleeing their homes. Hinducouncil

These white Jews as they preferred to call themselves built India’s oldest Jewish synagogue (temple)  called Kochangadi Synagogue in the year 1334. The temple stands and is in use by the remaining Jews. Another Synagogue of Jews which is in regular use can be found in the north western city of Ahmadabad.

Most younger Jews, after the founding of Israel, leave India for Israel. Many more are now calling, like other Indians, USA and UK as their new home. The number of Jews are dwindling fast in India and they may but remain in the history books of India one day. But as celebrated author Salman Rushdie has predicted this day in his novel The Moor’s Last Sigh, parts of which are based in Kochi. It is “an extinction to be mourned; not an extermination, such as (it) occurred elsewhere,” Rushdie wrote, in reference to the warm reception Jews got in Kochi, compared to the hostility they faced in many other places. It is, he added, “the end, nevertheless, of a story that took two thousand years to tell”.

India has another minority called Parsis (which means ‘Persian‘ in the Persian language) are a Zoroastrian community who migrated to the Indian subcontinent from Persia during the Muslim conquest of Persia of CE 636–651; one of two such groups (the other being Iranis). According to the Qissa-i Sanjan, Parsis migrated from Greater Iran to Gujarat, where they were given refuge, and given granted permission to stay by the local ruler, Jadi Rana between the 8th and 10th century CE. Parsi legends regarding their ancestors’ migration to India depict a beleaguered band of religious refugees escaping the new rule post the Muslim conquests in order to preserve their ancient faith.

Today Parsis consider themselves as much Indian as any Hindu of the land. Although there are only about 60,000 Parsis in India, the community is free to practice their religion and business. The numbers of Parsis are declining due to low fertility rate linked to inbreeding. Indian government has setup a Ministry dedicated to increasing Parsi population and subsidizes test tube conception.

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India is also home to Dalai Lama, a Tibetan in exile in India. After the annexation of Tibet by the Chinese communist forces, Buddhist monks were being butchered. A large number of Tibetan Buddhists along with their leader Dalai Lama fled to India. India, now a Hindu majority secular republic, welcomed them with open arms.

Tibetan refuge in India has three stages. The first stage was in 1959 following the 14th Dalai Lama‘s escape to Dharamshala in India, in fear of persecution from the People’s Liberation Army. The second stage occurred in the 1980s, when China partially opened Tibet to foreigners. The third stage began in 1996 and continues today although with less frequency. (Hinducouncil)