Afghan gov’t at odds with private TV channels over airing Indian soap operas
by Abdul Haleem, Lin Jing
KABUL, May 1 (Xinhua) — Afghan Ministry for Information and Culture has been at odds with private TV channels over their continuously broadcasting Indian soap operas whose contents allegedly contradict with local cultural and religious values.
“Contents of these serials are in contrast with our cultural and religious values,” Afghan Minister for Informational and Culture Abdul Karim Khuram emphasized last week.
The minister also termed a handful of serials as un-Islamic and called on television stations to halt their airing.
He has taken the decision in the wake of criticism by religious circles in the conservative society where clerics have enough influence.
However, television runners and journalist community have described the move as political motivated and slammed it.
“It is a politically motivated agenda to suppress press freedom in the country,” Ahmad Shah Ahmadzai, the General Director of private television channel Afghan TV, told the media last Thursday.
He also termed it as a step towards re-Talibanization of Afghanistan, a reference to Taliban reign during which the fundamentalist outfit outlawed television, cinema, music and all kinds of entertainments in the war-ravaged central Asian state.
The Taliban regime which was ousted by the U.S.-led military invasion in late 2001 had banned all kinds of entertainments and confined women and girls to their houses during its six years rule in 95 percent of the country.
In addition, Abdul Hamid Mubariz, the president of National Union of Afghanistan Journalists, also termed the decision to ban Indian serials as “one-sided and a biased step” against the freedom of press.
Prominent among the controversial soap operas broadcast by private TV stations in Afghanistan includes “Sas Kabi Baho Tahi” or “Mother-in-law once was daughter-in-law”, “Kasauti Zindagi ki” or “Test of life” and “Kashish” or “Waiting.”
Almost all the contents of the trio controversial dramas are similar pivoting on love affairs, family problems and worshipping idols.
“Not only Indian films but all vices and evils must be swept from society and this is our demand and the demand of the people,” a renowned religious leader and member of Religious Council Anayatullah Baligh observed.
Baligh who is the prayer leader of a popular mosque in Kabul and spokesman of the Religious Council also stressed that all the television serials and films must be guided on right direction to benefit families, and not to promote vulgarity.
Attired in the Indian style of sleeveless dress and bare heads, the actresses in the soaps, according to clerics, could affect the culture of people in the conservative Afghanistan.
Unabated airing of the soap operas has even prompted Afghan parliament to debate the issue last month during which the religiously inspired lawmakers called on Information and Culture Ministry to stop them while the liberal legislators were opposing the demand.
Moreover, President Hamid Karzai in talks with journalists last month repeated his support to freedom of press but stressed, “The serials must be acceptable to our people and should not go in contrast to our morale and cultural values.”
Media, particularly the electronic one, is very young in Afghanistan. Though around a dozen private television channels have been established since the collapse of Taliban regime, they are insufficient to feed their entertainment programs from their own products.
In the post-Taliban central Asian nation where entertainment places such as theaters, cinema, bars and clubs are rare, television is the only mean accessible almost to all.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai also emphasized that “Afghanistan should promote its own its own culture by producing and airing its serials.”