The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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TV ban splits Kabul

Kabul, Aug. 29 (AFP): The unilateral decision to ban the telecast of Hindi films on Kabul TV and woman singers on radio has brought out divisions among Afghan ministers.

A government commission set up to review the television and radio output in Afghanistan has decreed that music by popular Afghan women singers should be broadcast at prime-time as part of a shake-up, officials said.

But Engineer Ishaq, the hardline head of state television in Kabul, has responded by not only refusing to air music featuring women singers but also by blocking the hugely popular Bollywood films, the head of the official news agency, Bakhtar, said.

Culture minister Makhdoom Raheen said Indian films should continue to be broadcast along with women singers.

“We do not have any discrimination against the art of any country, especially India,” Raheen told AFP. “I have not given any order to the radio not to broadcast women singing. This is all not true.”

The government commission, led by deputy culture minister Abdul Hameed Moubarez and which includes Ishaq, said popular Afghan women singers should be shown on television and radio to stop viewers from switching to foreign channels.

Cassettes featuring singers such as Quamargull and Rukshana should be broadcast “because it is what the Afghan people want”, according to a copy of the commission’s recommendations obtained by AFP.

“If we don’t broadcast these singers’ songs on our television, people will turn towards television from other countries and will watch those channels through satellite dish and the Internet,” the commission warned.

“We cannot avoid this and we will lose our viewers.”

The findings were sent to Ishaq and signed by Moubarez. But Ishaq ignored them, said Bakhtar director-general Khaleel Menawee.

“We do not know why he has announced an order not to show Indian films or women’s songs,” Menawee said.

“The order to ban Indian films comes from the director general of television (Ishaq), not by the minister or the commission which has been established by President (Hamid) Karzai,” Menawee added.

Ishaq was appointed to his post, which only entails responsibility for what is broadcast in Kabul, a few weeks ago. He is a member of the Northern Alliance movement which ousted the Taliban from power late last year.

The Taliban regime had completely banned television and music.

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