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Govt, UK and Canada stand firm on preserving media freedom

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(Last Updated On: January 27, 2021)

Deputy Minister of Interior Affairs for Strategy and Policies Sediq Sediqqi said in a tweet Wednesday afternoon that the Afghan government will deter any attempt by the enemy to silence Afghanistan’s media.

He said: “The Afghan government will deter enemies’ any attempt to falter or silence our media.

“We will stand firm to uphold one of our best gains of the past twenty years with our international allies who helped us to achieve it. No to dark ages [of the Taliban regime],” he said.

This comes after a joint press release was issued by embassies of the UK and Canada in Afghanistan on Wednesday marking the first anniversary of Afghanistan signing the Global Pledge on Media Freedom and joining the Media Freedom Coalition.

The Coalition is a partnership of 37 countries working to defend media freedom wherever it is threatened.

As co-chairs of the Global Campaign for Media Freedom, the UK and Canada stated it was reflecting Wednesday on the progress made to defend media freedom in Afghanistan.

“In July 2020, the Afghan Lower House of Parliament rejected amendments to the Mass Media Law, which would have had concerning implications for Afghan press freedom.

“Members of Afghanistan’s media community came together in solidarity, and we welcome the government’s decision to consult with them on any future changes,” the statement read.

However, the embassies stated that the threats to the safety of journalists and media professionals in the country remains one of the obstacles to the full implementation of the right to freedom of expression in Afghanistan.

“Unfortunately, Afghan journalists have faced growing levels of violence and insecurity over the past year. Members of the media, human rights activists, and other prominent members of civil society have been threatened, injured, or killed in targeted attacks – many of which are attributable to the Taliban and their proxies.

“We condemn all acts of violence, threats, censorship and intimidation towards those who are fighting to create a safer, fairer Afghanistan.” the statement from the embassies read.

It also noted that media outlets work tirelessly to uncover the truth and bravely report on it.

As such, “there must be full and transparent investigations into these heinous targeted attacks.

“All parties to the conflict in Afghanistan have a moral responsibility to end violence as a demonstration of their commitment to peace. We expect parties to the Afghan peace negotiations, including the Taliban, to publicly condemn the targeted attacks on members of the media, civil society organizations and the government.

“We also call for greater support from each side for the protection of journalists and the freedom of expression.

“Freedom of media and expression is a cornerstone of a democratic society and is essential for the protection of fundamental human rights and freedoms. Attacks on media freedom are attacks on human rights,” the statement read.

The embassies stated that the vibrant Afghan media scene has been one of the biggest successes of the last two decades, and, according to the British and Candadian embassies it cannot be allowed to falter in the face of growing insecurity.

The UK and Canada stated their reiterate their commitment to working collaboratively with Afghanistan to defend its wide-ranging media landscape and protect its courageous journalists.

“Where media representatives are free to do their work safely, societies are more prosperous and resilient,” the statement read.

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NATO hands over another base to Afghan military

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(Last Updated On: May 5, 2021)

NATO forces have handed over another military camp to Afghan security forces in northern Balkh province, the 209 Shaheen Corps said in a statement.

The camp known as Camp Mike Spann was handed over to the Afghan forces during a ceremony at the Corps’ headquarters in Mazar-e-Sharif in the province on Wednesday morning.

Addressing the ceremony, the commander of Shaheen Corps General Ghulam Mustafa Wardak thanked the International Community and Germany for assisting Afghanistan in establishing and training the Afghan National Security and Defense Forces (ANSDF).

Wardak stated that the Afghan forces are capable of independently defending Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, NATO’s commander for the northern sector of Afghanistan General Ansgar Meyer stated that the Afghan forces have been able to independently carry out operations against militants since 2014.

Meyer emphasized that the international community will continue to support Afghan forces in the logistics and armament sectors.

This comes after the US forces handed over the responsibility of Camp Antonik to the Afghan forces in southern Helmand province on Sunday.

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Concerns raised after NDS chief and Taliban issue warnings to the media

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(Last Updated On: May 5, 2021)

A number of media advocates said on Wednesday that warnings issued against the media by both government and the Taliban could undermine the hard-won gains in press freedom in Afghanistan over the past 20 years.

Concerns were raised after the National Security Directorate (NDS) chief Ahmad Zia told Parliament on Wednesday that a number of Afghan media outlets were broadcasting or publishing “propaganda in favor of the Taliban.”

The Taliban in turn threatened local media and said they would “face the consequences” for reporting biased stories in favor of the government.

Responding to this, the US Embassy and the UK Embassy in Afghanistan issued a joint statement on Wednesday night condemning the Taliban’s attempts “to silence journalists”.

The embassies said: “The Taliban today, two days after World Press Freedom Day, threatened the Afghan media accusing them of being proxies for the government and ordering them to alter their reporting or they would ‘face the consequences.”

“We know the Taliban propaganda machine constantly manipulates the truth in order to deflect blame for the atrocities they commit onto others and to avoid responsibility for their actions.

“We strongly support Afghanistan’s independent media. We condemn in the strongest possible terms the ongoing violence and threats against the media, and the Taliban’s attempts to silence journalists,” the statement read.

This comes after MPs said that NDS chief Ahmad Zia said in Parliament on Wednesday that Afghan media “should be aware of the enemy’s psychological war.”

MP Arif Rahmani tweeted that Zia claimed a number of politicians, experts, and media outlets publicize propaganda in favor of the Taliban. However, he reportedly warned that these individuals and entities would “be treated as a terrorist.”

According to Rahmani, the NDS Chief further said that propaganda broadcast by a number of television channels in favor of the Taliban “is shocking.”

He said “this is not freedom of speech, but it is an abuse of freedom of expression; We will not tolerate it.”

In response to Rahmani’s tweet, the Taliban, in turn, warned Afghan media outlets against publishing or broadcasting one-sided reports.

Zabiullah Mujahid, a spokesman for the group said in a series of tweets: “For several days, the Taliban have been witnessing one sided-propaganda and publications by some media outlets.”

He stated that the NDS is directly involved in such activities, adding: “Media must be aware of maintaining their neutrality” and avoid becoming a “propaganda tool” for the government in such a sensitive situation in the country.

Mujahid stated that if the media continue to broadcast or publish “misleading news and incorrect information” their objectivity could be questioned.

He said the same applies to the spreading of false news and misinformation by the media and journalists.

Should this continue, the onus will be on media executives to deal with the consequences and warned media executives and media workers against publicizing one-sided news in favor of the government.

Meanwhile, the media advocacy organization, NAI, and Afghanistan Free Press Hub said the remarks by the NDS Chief and the Taliban are concerning.

“The NDS Chief has accused some media of cooperating with the Taliban. He has to clarify which media outlets [he is referring to] and which media outlets have done this. A general accusation against all media is against the law. The Taliban also warned the media. This situation risks the work of the media in Afghanistan,” NAI Chief Executive Mujib Khilwatgar said.

The NDS, meanwhile, in a statement rejected the report and stated that Zia’s remarks were misinterpreted.
 
Afghanistan’s national spy agency said: “Disclosure and distortion of the contents of secret meetings to the public is unacceptable, and is contrary to the provisions of the Constitution and contrary to the principles of the internal duties of the House of Representatives.”
 
“The NDS has been at the forefront of protecting the freedom of expression and journalists,” the statement read.
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Starlink satellite internet service gets 500,000 preorders, Musk says

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(Last Updated On: May 5, 2021)

SpaceX has received more than 500,000 preorders for its Starlink satellite internet service and anticipates no technical problems meeting the demand, founder Elon Musk said on Tuesday.

“Only limitation is high density of users in urban areas,” Musk tweeted, responding to a post from a CNBC reporter that said the $99 deposits SpaceX took for the service were fully refundable and did not guarantee service.

“More of a challenge when we get into the several million user range,” Musk said.

SpaceX has not set a date for Starlink’s service launch, but commercial service would not likely be offered in 2020 as it had previously planned.

The company plans to eventually deploy 12,000 satellites in total and has said the Starlink constellation will cost it roughly $10 billion.

Building and sending rockets to outer space is a capital-intensive business, but two of the world’s richest men, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and Musk, who is also the chief of automaker Tesla Inc, have invested billions of dollars over the years to make inroads in this market.

Musk and Bezos have sparred publicly over the competing satellite plans.

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) last month approved SpaceX’s plan to deploy some Starlink satellites at a lower earth orbit than planned but included a number of conditions to ensure the plan’s safety.

SpaceX agreed to accept that their satellites may encounter interference from satellites deployed under Amazon’s Kuiper Systems satellite project.

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