Afghan gov't bans Al-Jazeera programs on local TV station

Lemar TV stop broadcasts but contest before the Supreme Court.

al jazeera symbol 88 (photo credit: )
al jazeera symbol 88
(photo credit: )
The Afghan government ordered a TV station in the country to suspend broadcasts of all Al-Jazeera English language programs, the station's director said Tuesday. A statement from Lemar TV said the Ministry of Information and Culture, which oversees media in Afghanistan, did not provide reasons for the order. The station complied, but contested the order before the Supreme Court on Tuesday. The director of the station said the ministry told the attorney general's office that Al-Jazeera is "inflicting a killer blow to the cultural order and the legal authority of the government." Ministry officials could not immediately be reached for comment. The station's director Saad Mohseni said the attorney general's office sent a letter on Sunday ordering Lemar to stop broadcasting Al-Jazeera. Lemar, which for five months has featured about three hours of Al-Jazeera news programming per day, suspended the shows Sunday afternoon. Mohseni said there was no legal justification for the ban, but the station decided to suspend programming for now. "Given that we promote institution building and the importance of abiding by Afghanistan's laws, we felt it may be best to comply with the demands of the attorney general's office," Mohseni said. "In Afghanistan, it's a bit like people are guilty until proven innocent," he continued, adding that once the station stopped transmission, it could then sort out the problem with the ministry. He said that the station delivered a four-page submission arguing the legality of transmission to the Supreme Court on Tuesday, and that Lemar will try to bring back programming as soon as possible. The ban on Al-Jazeera comes amid widespread concern that media rights were being quashed by the government. A proposed media law that will soon go before Parliament would make it illegal for journalists to report stories "that harm the physical, spiritual and moral well-being of people." Doha, Qatar-based Al-Jazeera began English newscasts on Nov. 15 to an estimated 80 million homes on cable and satellite TV. The station, an offshoot of the Arabic-language Al-Jazeera, mainly reaches viewers in the Middle East and Europe. Cable operators in Afghanistan are still free to broadcast Al-Jazeera.