Archive for the ‘Freedom of Expression’ Category
By NAHAL TOOSI
Fri Jul 18, 7:15 PM ET
KABUL, Afghanistan – An Afghan journalist who contributes to The Associated Press was freed Friday after his pictures and video footage of two women brazenly executed by the Taliban led intelligence officials to hold him for questioning for two days.
Rahmatullah Naikzad confirmed that authorities had released him, saying he was “fine,” and that he’d been let go in time to attend a family funeral.
Naikzad’s pictures and footage of the slain women in central Ghazni province, a few hours outside of the capital, were aired internationally and in Afghanistan, prompting widespread anger in Afghanistan over the killings.
President Hamid Karzai personally condemned the crime and, on Wednesday, Afghan intelligence authorities requested Naikzad visit their offices in Ghazni and answer questions about what he knew about the killings.
Prior to covering the executions of the women, whom the Taliban accused of working as prostitutes on a U.S. base in Ghazni city, Naikzad said the Taliban contacted him and asked him to attend the trial of a man and several women accused of various crimes. He said he did not know if the Saturday, July 12, trial would result in an execution.
Naikzad’s pictures included one of the two burqa-clad women sitting next to each other a few minutes before their executions. Another photo showed their bodies the following morning, when Naikzad returned to the scene.
His video footage and photos did not show the actual execution, but the audio track did record the women’s screams. He told the AP that the Taliban would not allow him to record images of the killings.
Naikzad, a native of the town of Ghazni in the Afghan province of the same name, has worked for AP Television News and AP Photos since July 2007. He also works with a local radio station and is known to government officials in the region, including Kazim Allayar, the deputy governor of Ghazni, who described Naikzad as a good person.
In Afghanistan, it is common for journalists from both local and foreign news organizations to communicate with Taliban. Spokesmen for the hardline militia frequently issue statements and can be reached by phone, text message and e-mail. On occasion, elements of the Taliban also communicate directly with local government officials.
Militants hold sway in sizeable tracts of the country, particularly in the south and east. Much of Ghazni also has come under Taliban control.
In addition to being an armed militia, the Taliban increasingly seek to impose harsh dictates through an application of what they consider to be Shariah law in areas of Afghanistan and Pakistan they control.
Their use of punishments such as summary executions hark back to the time when they controlled all of the country before being routed by combined U.S.-Afghan forces in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the United States.
By Bilal Sarwary
BBC News, Kabul
Tuesday, 29 July 2008
The authorities in Afghanistan have detained a prominent journalist after the broadcast of a documentary which was critical of members of the cabinet.
Mohammad Nasir Fayyaz was detained, released and has now contacted the BBC to say he is in detention again.
Mr Fayyaz is the presenter of an investigative programme called The Truth, which recently strongly criticised two government ministries.
Officials say they are “working hard” to secure his release.
In a recent edition of The Truth, Mr Fayyaz criticised two cabinet members – including the water and energy minister – of under-performing in their jobs.
His programme featured a performance graph which showed how well various government ministries were functioning.
Many people in government are not used to such critical analysis – Afghanistan does not have a tradition of investigative reporting – and it is thought that is why the journalist has been detained.
Mr Fayyaz also appears to have upset some members of the government.
Water and Energy Minister Ismail Khan recently accused Mr Fayyaz of corruptly asking him to ensure power was provided to his residence 24 hours a day – a request which Mr Khan said was refused.
Mr Fayyaz has denied the minister’s allegations.
The journalist was initially arrested by intelligence officials on Monday, but now appears to have been detained again after giving an interview to the BBC.
He said that he is currently being held by intelligence officials in a locked bathroom.
Afghan intelligence officials have refused to comment on his case.
However a spokesman for the ministry of information and culture, Hameed Nasery Wardak, told the BBC that officials are working hard to release him.
”We are trying to free him and I am 95% sure that he will be released very soon,” Mr Wardak said.
Meanwhile, Fawzia Koofi, a member of parliament from north-eastern Afghanistan, has strongly criticised the detention.
”When people voted in the elections, they did so because they believed in democracy and freedom of speech,” she said.
“Our government shouldn’t be arresting reporters. If some ministers think that this reporter said something which was not based on truth and against the norms of journalism, than they should have launched a compliant against him.”
Colleagues at the TV station where Mr Fayyaz worked have called for his immediate release.
“This man has done nothing wrong except do his job. He does not deserve to be in detention,” one told the BBC.
International pressure is all that stands between a young journalism student and the death penalty, say his supporters.
Institute for War & Peace Reporting
By Jean MacKenzie in Kabul (ARR No. 293, 16-Jun-08)
A subdued, anxious crowd filled the courtroom of the Kabul Appeal Court on June 15 for the latest installment in the case of Sayed Parwez Kambakhsh, the Afghan journalism student facing a death sentence for blasphemy.
There was little evidence of the international media in the courtroom, and the few foreign diplomats present sat quietly, some conferring with the defence from time to time.
The lack of a strong international presence could be bad news for Kambakhsh. Several sources close to the case have said international attention is the only thing sustaining his appeal.
“If the eyes of the world were not on him, this judge would just hang Kambakhsh,” said one insider, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Presiding judge Abdul Salam Qazizada has weathered several Afghan administrations. He is a holdover from the Taleban regime, and his antagonism to the defendant was visible.
By the end of the June 15 session, it was clear there was to be no swift end to proceedings against Kambakhsh, 23, who is accused of “insulting Islam and abusing the Holy Prophet Mohammad”.
For the fourth time in the past 30 days, the case was adjourned without a decision.
During the session, Qazizada appeared to take on the role of prosecutor rather than impartial judge, engaging in a legal duel with defence attorney Mohammad Afzal Nooristani. Lacking a gavel, he repeatedly banged his pen against his microphone in an effort to halt Nooristani’s defence of his client.
Time and again the judge attacked Kambakhsh, who sat pale but composed in the defendant’s chair.
“Just tell me why you did these things,” insisted Qazizada. “What were your motives?”
“I cannot give you reasons, since I did not do anything,” responded Kambakhsh.
The young student is accused of downloading and distributing a text from the internet that criticises, sometimes quite harshly, Islam’s treatment of women. The prosecution contends that Kambakhsh added several paragraphs of his own, and that this proves he is “against Islam”.
In Afghanistan, this is a capital crime, at least according to the court in Balkh province which issued the death sentence in a closed session in late January.
Kambakhsh has consistently denied downloading or handing out the article, still less writing any part of the offending text.
He claims that a confession he signed while held in custody by the National Security Directorate was coerced, and stated that security forces broke his nose and left hand. He told the court that he came under psychological pressure and signed the confession out of fear.
A previous session, on June 1, ended with a defence motion to have Kambakhsh examined for signs of physical trauma.
The results from the department of forensic medicine were inconclusive. In findings read out on June 15, doctors stated that while Kambakhsh’s nose showed a slight deviation, it could be a congenital defect as well as evidence of injury. No pathology was found in the left hand, but, according to the statement, there had been ample time for any injury to heal in the seven months since the beating was alleged to have taken place.
This session was the first time the defence had been allowed to read out a statement rebutting the charges against Kambakhsh.
The prosecution also gave a statement, outlining the evidence that had been gathered.
Once prosecutor Ahmad Khan Ayar concluded his statement, he traded a few jabs with Nooristani, but was soon overshadowed by the presiding judge.
“It is clear that this text belongs to you,” Qazizada told Kambakhsh, When the defendant attempted to protest, he was silenced by the judge’s irritable banging on the mike.
After lunch, the case took an even more sombre tone, as Qazizada intensified his pressure on the defence.
“Kambakhsh may have wanted to make himself popular by writing this text,” he thundered, his voice in the microphone nearly drowning out the simultaneous translation.
“Why was he the only one arrested? Balkh University is very large – why should Sayed Parwez Kambakhsh be arrested and prosecuted? Can you tell me?” he asked, turning to the defendant.
Kambakhsh tried to explain once again that he had no connection with the offending text, that he had no idea why he was arrested, and that he had made the confession under duress.
But the judge was not convinced.
“I have seen the documents, I have read them,” he roared. “[The content] is against Islam.”
The court was also presented with a long list of Kambakhsh’s alleged failings, such as that he was a socialist, impolite, and asked too many questions in class. He was also accused of having swapped off-colour jokes with friends via text messaging on his mobile phone.
When the judge read out one text-message anecdote in a tone of high indignation, several people in the audience had to repress a smile.
The court finally adjourned in order to summon witnesses from Balkh province, whose written testimony provided the body of the case. No date has been set for the next session.
The defendant’s brother, Sayed Yaqub Ibrahimi, who has been a reporter with IWPR for the past six years, was visibly upset by the day’s events.
“Welcome to the Middle Ages,” he grimaced.
A foreign diplomat also expressed consternation at the way the trial was being conducted.
“I do not see any way out,” said the diplomat, speaking on condition of anonmity.
The government of Afghanistan has come under high-level pressure to find a solution for Kambakhsh, whose case has come up in talks between President Hamed Karzai and several international leaders, including United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and British Foreign Secretary David Miliband.
Karzai has made public assurances that “justice will be done” but so far has not openly intervened in the case.
In the months since his sentencing, Kambakhsh has become an international figure, his face appearing on posters and the front pages of newspapers. Britian’s Independent newspaper launched a campaign, gathering tens of thousands of signatures to support the young man.
There is a danger that as time drags on, the level of interest will drop, along with the protection it affords.
“Time means nothing to us,” said Qazizada, adjourning the case yet again.
“That is easy for him to say,” said Ibrahimi, as his brother was led out of the court in handcuffs. “He goes home every night. Parwez is spending his time in prison.”
HERAT, Afghanistan, May 28 (Reuters) – Afghan television journalist Niloufar Habibi never wore the all-enveloping burqa until she was stabbed on her doorstep. Now it is her disguise.
More than six years after the overthrow of the Taliban, Afghanistan remains a deeply conservative country where many still oppose women working in public, visible roles.
“If I go outside people will see where I’m going and see what I’m doing,” said Habibi, 20.
“I wear it (the burqa) to feel safe. I feel they are still after me.”
Just over 10 days ago Habibi opened her front door to a woman dressed in a burqa asking for a glass of water.
As she turned to go to the kitchen the woman tore off the burqa, wrapped it around Habibi’s head, and stabbed her in the abdomen.
“The next time I opened my eyes, I was in hospital,” Habibi told Reuters in the western city of Herat.
Two women journalists were killed in Afghanistan last year and rights groups are concerned about the increase in violence.
“We are very worried about the growing number of attacks and threats against women journalists,” said Reporters Without Borders, referring to Habibi’s case.
“Action must be taken to put a stop to this violence.”
For about a year Habibi worked as a journalist for Herat TV, a state-owned television station in her home town.
Reading the news, hosting cultural shows and interviewing high-profile Afghan figures made hers a recognisable face.
Days before Habibi was stabbed, she started receiving phone calls and text messages, asking her if she thought she was important now she was on TV.
The callers threatened to kill her if she did not stop working.
“At first I thought it was my friends joking around,” she said. “But then I started receiving five to six messages and two to three phone calls a day, sometimes 12 o’clock at night.
“That’s when I knew it was serious.”
The police told Habibi to write down the callers’ numbers and said they would visit her at work to investigate.
The next day, on her way to work, Habibi was stopped by two men on a motorbike and a woman and a man in a car. The group were carrying a gun, a knife and a razor blade.
“This one will finish you if you don’t stop working,” one of them said, showing her a bullet.
The woman in the group then slashed Habibi’s right forearm with the razor blade several times as one of the men held her arm. They later dropped her off at her workplace with a warning.
“If you don’t resign, we will kill you,” the woman said.
The next day Habibi was stabbed.
“I don’t know who they are,” said Habibi. “But I think these are a group of people that don’t want women to develop and go out and work, instead they want them to stay at home.”
Under the Taliban, women were not allowed to work and television was banned. Habibi is educated and ambitious, and represents a new face of Afghan women in a troubled country.
But for conservatives, change is happening too fast.
“My only wish was to become a good journalist and be at the service of my people, but if the people don’t understand that then what can I do?” she says.
Since being stabbed Habibi has not been going to work.
“What’s more important: TV or my life?” she said.
Asked if she has hope for her country and the future, Habibi sounded defeated.
“What future, what country, what people?”
(Editing by Robert Woodward)
Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty
May 16, 2008
There’s renewed international concern for Sayed Perwiz Kambakhsh, a young Afghan journalist sentenced to death for blasphemy. The press freedom group Reporters Without Borders is urging the Afghan government to cooperate with the lawyer of Kambakhsh, who remains jailed in Kabul awaiting an appeal hearing.
Nearly two months have passed since Kambakhsh was transferred to the Afghan capital from a jail in the northern city of Mazar-e Sharif. Yet the young journalism student — who was sentenced to death at a summary trial in October for allegedly distributing information insulting to Islam — is still languishing in a Kabul prison with no fixed date for his appeals hearing.
This week, Reporters Without Borders, the international press-freedom watchdog, once again raised its voice, appealing to the government of Afghan President Hamid Karzai to cooperate with Kambakhsh’s lawyer.
Kevin Olivier, who works on Asian issues for the organization in Paris, says the lawyer still has not received the file for the case from the Afghan authorities, which is preventing him from preparing the appeal.
“The case has not progressed since it was transferred to the Kabul court of justice,” Olivier says. “We urge the authorities to speed up the procedure so that Kambakhsh’s appeal can receive a fair hearing, far from the influence of religious fundamentalists.”
Sentenced To Death
A journalism student who wrote for the newspaper “Jahan-e Naw” (New World), Kambakhsh was arrested in October on what rights activists say were trumped up charges of distributing information insulting to Islam. Kambakhsh was said to have distributed printouts of an article by an Iranian blogger about Koranic passages that the author said discriminated against women.
On January 22, Kambakhsh was sentenced to death in a trial that relatives say was held behind closed doors. The case highlights the tension between international human-rights law — which the Afghan Constitution pledges to uphold — and some interpretations of Islam.
Reporters Without Borders says his lawyer did not dare attend the trial for fear of reprisals. The watchdog is now urging the Afghan government to ensure the appeals hearing, which has still not been scheduled, will be fair and open.
“This was not the case when he was tried and sentenced to death for blasphemy in Mazar-e Sharif,” Olivier says. “We call on foreign governments to continue to intercede on Kambakhsh’s behalf.”
Appeal Not Scheduled
However, just when his appeal will be heard remains unclear.
“They have not given us an exact time for hearing the appeal, but we hope it will be next month,” Kambakhsh’s brother, Sayed Yaqub Ibrahimi, who is also a journalist, told RFE/RL’s Radio Free Afghanistan.
In the wake of an international uproar over the case, Afghan President Hamid Karzai reportedly told a delegation of Afghan journalists in February not to worry about Kambakhsh, to trust the legal system, and that he would be freed soon.
Kambakhsh was finally transferred to Kabul on March 27. He is being held in Pul-e Charkhi prison, in the eastern part of the capital.
As two Afghan TV stations hold out against a ban on Indian soap operas, analysts warn freedom of speech is at stake.
By Hafizullah Gardesh in Kabul
With two television states still battling a government ban on Indian serials regarded as too racy for local sensibilities, viewers are trying to make sense of the government’s increasingly muddled media policy.
The dispute has raised questions about who should have the moral authority to censor the airwaves, how politics influences decisions on the media, and – most importantly of all – what kind of society Afghans want.
The Ministry of Information and Culture gave private channels a deadline of April 15, later extended by a week to April 22, to stop showing certain Bollywood series on the grounds that they offended Afghan sensibilities.
The ministry demanded that five serials be taken off the air.
Two television stations, Noorin and Ariana, bowed to the ban, but Tolo, responsible for two of the series, and Afghan TV have continued to air the popular serials.
The ministry has referred Tolo TV to the prosecutor’s office, but no legal action had been launched by the time this report was published.
The Indian-made soaps enjoy huge popularity among viewers. However, at a meeting last month with religious scholars and TV representatives, Information and Culture Minister Abdul Karim Khurram claimed these programmes ran counter to Islamic culture and promoted “idolatry” with their depictions of Hindu imagery.
Critics say the clothing worn by the female actors is too revealing for Afghan tastes. The dialogue and plot lines are also offensive to many, with hints of unlawful sexual conduct and other titillating material.
The driving force behind the government ban was the Council of Clerics, which brings together leading Muslim scholars. The council had called for all Indian serials to be taken off the airwaves, but expressed satisfaction with the selective ban.
“We are against anything that is against the tenets of Islam. We propose that broadcasting be adjusted to fit Islamic culture,” said Enayatullah Baligh, a member of the Council of Clerics. He said clerics were pleased with what the ministry had done although they felt it had not gone far enough.
Baligh said the Council of Clerics would assert its right to prevent immorality at any cost.
“We prevent all kinds of vice. We aren’t afraid to do so even if it means we are described as Taleban, al-Qaeda or something else,” he said. “We defend anyone who defends Islam. Afghanistan is an Islamic country and it should live under the umbrella of Islamic law.”
The cleric added that the council was well able to act on such matters independently, but in this instance had chosen to defer to government – as long as it acted in the correct manner.
The Senate or upper chamber of parliament has backed the ministry’s decision. Members of the lower house also spoke out against the “anti-Islamic” content of TV programming last month. In addition to the drama serials, they were annoyed by a show in which men and women were seen dancing together.
At national level, a bitter debate continues between those who want to impose a conservative morality and advocates of freedom of speech.
Some, like Abdul Hamid Mubariz, head of the National Union of Journalists, insist that the ban is a deliberate ploy by political and religious conservatives.
“There is a body of people in government who want to do without freedom of speech and democracy,” he said. “They are people who see freedom of speech as being against their own personal interest.
“If we are to follow Taleban-style policies, then why didn’t Mullah Omar become president of Afghanistan instead of Hamed Karzai?” he asked.
Mubariz challenged President Karzai to issue a formal ruling on the matter.
“Karzai should issue a decree and snatch away our freedom. Then we will take away from him the mantle of freedom and democracy,” he said.
Karzai has issued contradictory statements, straddling a line between upholding freedom of speech, as guaranteed by the constitution, and backing moves to defend Afghan culture.
But the Ministry of Information and Culture has no such qualms.
“Every freedom has its limits,” said ministry spokesman Hamid Naseri. “Every human being is free insofar as he does not violate and harm the person, sensibilities and faith of others.”
Naseri said that the ministry had issued its ruling based on “hundreds” of complaints sent in by members of the public.
“This is the people’s will, and we respect the wishes of our people,” he said.
Naseri also attacked external critics who depicted the TV serial ban as a restriction of media freedom. Responding to a statement issued by the Paris-based Reporters Without Borders, he said it had “misjudged” the situation.
“Without contacting the people and our ministry or being award of the reality, they contact traitors and accept what they say and react to that,” he alleged.
Turning to the private TV stations, Naseri accused them of being too lazy to make their own programmes, despite what he said was encouragement by the ministry to use Afghans in productions that reflected local values and traditions.
“Officials at Tolo TV are trying to ‘hide the sun behind two fingers’ [conceal the obvious]. What scenes in these serials and movies are based on Islamic and Afghan culture? This is a cultural assault pursued by Tolo TV.”
Sediq Ahmadzada, executive manager of Tolo TV, maintains that there is no justification for halting the Indian serials.
“Our programmes and broadcasts are not against the law. The statement the information ministry sent us does not contain any convincing legal reasons,” he said. “We resist any pressure that is not legal and we will continue our broadcasts.”
Political analyst Mohammad Qasim Akhgar believes that the background to this dispute has more to do with politics than with morality.
“There are some fundamentalists in government, who have put pressure on private TV stations, and Tolo in particular, in the past, too. This is a continuation of that previous pressure,” said Akhgar. “This group of people is trying to eliminate free speech as a way of maintaining their strength and giving legitimacy to their demands. Freedom of speech unmasks their plans and programmes.”
Control of the media is becoming increasingly important as Afghanistan prepares for presidential elections in 2009. Many political groups have opened their own media outlets, and Akhgar is not alone in thinking that there may be political motives behind the current tussle over the airwaves.
Akhgar disputed the ministry spokesman’s claim that the ban reflected popular demand.
“It’s completely the other way round…. People really want these serials to be broadcast. Those who complain about [them] can switch off or watch something else,” he said. “Representing this as if it came from the people is not good.”
Another analyst, Ahmad Sayedi, said it was hard to know what was really really going on in government, given the mixed messages coming out about freedom of speech.
“In a situation like this, one gets confused. On the one hand, President Hamed Karzai talks about freedom of speech and sees himself as a defender of freedom, but on the other hand, the information and culture ministry does not believe in freedom of speech. We don’t really know what is behind the curtain,” he said.
Kabul residents are divided in their outlook on the ban, and on the controversy surrounding it.
Some, like Dr Gul Rasul, argue that the Indian soaps undermine Afghan traditions, and even faith.
He recalled the day he visited relatives to pay his respects after a death in the family. Afterwards, his five-year-old daughter asked him, “Father, why were the family of the deceased not wearing white?”
Rasul explained that this was because Afghans wear black as mourning, whereas the Indian actors on TV wear white.
Schoolteacher Saleha complained that her pupils were slacking because they spent so much time gripped by the latest serials.
“The children have stopped attending to their lessons,” she said. They watch these serials until late into the night. I teach the first grade, and believe me, the girls aged six and seven pay no attention to their lessons. They’re always telling each other romantic stories about the actors from these serials.”
On the other hand Zuhra, who is 18, loves the Indian soap operas so much that she dresses like the actresses.
She says it is wrong to blame Indian programmes for Afghanistan’s many problems, “There are thefts, robberies, murders and thousands of other anti-Islamic actions taking place in this country but the Council of Clerics, parliament and government never pay attention to these things because they are implicated in these crimes themselves,” she said. “Yet they try to ban a few Indian serials that spread love, friendship and honesty among the people.”
Hafizullah Gardesh is IWPR’s local editor in Kabul.
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.”