Status: Not Free
Legal Environment: 22 (of 30)
Political Environment: 32 (of 40)
Economic Environment: 20 (of 30)
Total Score: 74 (of 100)
(Lower scores = freer)

Covers events that took place between January 1, 2008, and December 31, 2008.

  • Article 34 of the constitution provides for freedom of the press and of expression.

  • A revised 2005 Press Law guarantees the right of citizens to obtain information and prohibits censorship. However there are broad restrictions on any content that is "contrary to the principles of Islam or offensive to other religions and sects."

  • A new media law passed in September 2008 contained a number of registration and content restrictions.

  • Media outlets are occasionally fined or warned for broadcasting "un-Islamic material," resulting in self-censorship. There have also been examples of journalists being arrested for such violations.

  • Parvez Kambaksh was sentenced to death for blasphemy in January 2008, having distributed an article on Islam that he had downloaded from the internet. An appeals court reduced the sentence to a 20-year prison term in October.

  • The government became more heavy handed in its efforts to influence media coverage during 2008. Abdul Khurram, minister of culture and youth, issued a directive to halt programming that was "contrary to Afghan culture and laws."

  • A growing number of journalists were threatened or harassed by government officials, police and security services, and U.S. forces as a result of their reporting, while others have been arrested and detained. One journalist was held by U.S. troops for 11 months and mistreated in detention.

  • Journalists are also increasingly targeted by insurgents. Both foreign and local journalists faced physical threats, and at least three foreign and two local media workers were kidnapped during 2008. One journalist was killed in a suicide attack on Kabul's Serena hotel. Local female journalists are especially at risk of threats.

  • Registration requirements remain in place, but authorities have granted more than 400 publication licenses, and over 60 radio channels and 8 television stations are now broadcasting.

  • International radio broadcasts in Dari or Pashto – such as those from the British Broadcasting Corporation, Voice of America, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, and Radio Free Afghanistan – remain key sources of information for many Afghans.

  • Access to the internet and satellite television is growing rapidly and remains mostly unrestricted, although it is largely confined to Kabul and other major cities. Only 1.5 percent of the population had access to the internet in 2008.

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