The Minister for Iof information and Cculture, Abdul Karim Khuram, in a letter to Internews demanded, that one of the station managers of one of the stations Internews established, through USAID funding, be removed from his position as soon as possible and that “Zahid shah Angahr, director of Sulai Paygham radio station should be removed from his position the soonest possible, the content and programming of the radio station should also be reformed. , and a sensible person should be appointed – instead. The ministry requested to be shall be assured of the changes with in a week.
The Minsters letter was prompted by a handful of letters from members of the community not happy with the station manager. However SW investigations into this issue found many more supporters of the station than dissenters and it appears these letters of complaint may have been made in the context of a highly competitive media market in Khost.
Here, I will try to analyze the issues that arise from the minister’s letter and offer you potential explanations of clauses and implication of concepts. The issues I’ll focus are as following:
Prejudgment in information vacuum about a radio station in one of the Provinces Sulai Paygham and scientific approaches to data gathering on media
Minister’s understanding of how international organizations, supporting free media, works.
Ownership, management structure and monitoring of free media
Knowledge of MoIC on methods of local conflict and conflict resolution
Prejudgment in information vacuum about radio Sulai Paygham and scientific approaches to data gathering on media:
Karim Khuram as minister of information and culture is the head of the highest cultural and media organization in the country. Media survey, with diversity in methodology, is a scientific approach for gathering information on media, journalists and audience. Ministry of information and culture hasn’t only produced any research on audience habits and preferences, but it also hasn’t used the data produced by scientific and international bodies. In part of his letter the minister says “also revise the content of the radio station” unfortunately, this clause is legally very weedy. Ambiguity in this suggests shows some hidden agendas.
How is the radio content now? How many hours and what kind of programs? What are the shortcomings? Which one of the shortcomings is illegal? What do you expect? How do you want to revise? What do you want to hear? These are all, the question the minister should have offered some sort of answer to. The other question is what the station managers Zahid Shah Angahr’s removal has got to do with content improvement; sacking a station manager for poor content is not within the media law of Afghanistan. illegal. Jan McArthur internews country director stated “We are not aware and don’t have any evidence that the station is broadcasting any material that contravenes the media law of Afghanistan or that it is operating in a way that breaches any law of Afghanistan”
Altai, Aina and internews have done some surveys about radio station concerned and found that Sulai Paygham with encouraging outcomes. According Angahr “Altai’s survey in 2004 found out that 98% of the community in this town people surveyed listens to this radio station. The sulai paygham” the reportaudience research shows that continues “both men and women reported that they didn’t have any difficulty understanding this radio stations content.” sulai paygham”
The station also has a board of directors broadly representative of the community, and the station operates according to relevant bylaws Radio Sulai Payman considers board of directors as one of the musts, the bylaw saysin which the “board of directors will work for one year, they can be reappointed for a period of up to four years” only the board of directors can replace the radio manager and appoint a new manager. If the working board of directors for personal or political reasons chose not to doesn’t want to replace the a malfunction manager, but the community is unhappy with the manager, then the community in association with radio staff and manager can appoint a new board of directors. The government can’t compel the board to certain decisions or remove board members. However, the government could, if needed, introduce a representative member to the board, but this person would only remain as an advisor and won’t have voting right.
SW has investigated the operations of the particular station in question and found great community support for the station, eveident on one level through the Radio Sulai Paygham receives thousand of letters of support and requests the station receives every month. T; the letters reflect are the projection of reality, from the a dedicated audience who are enjoying normal life. The sSincerity of the audience is represented in words, drawing and calligraphy. Then we can say that there are some people who trust the radio. If only letters are regarded for judging the radio station, as the minister did, there are more letters in favor of the radio station than the limited number complaining about it.
Legitmacy of hMinister’s understanding of how international organizations, supporting free media, works:
The request from the Ministry subject of the letter implies that internews has full control over the radio station concerned radio Sulai Paygham aand that MoIC can give orders to an international media support organization. This shows a lack of understanding on the minister’s behalf of knowledge on how media players are connected and related. The Minister giving a deadline to Internews to remove the station manager When the minister says “The ministry shall be assured in a week of the changes” means theimplies the minister and/or the ministry can direct Internews work; Internews is funded by USAID to deliver an independent media development program approved by the government of Afghanistan. Internews has been given the task of enabling the development of a this is when Internews is funded by international donor community, which is aiming to establish a free and independent media sector, to compliment a government media sector. This program has been approved by the government of Afghanistan. The afghan run and owned media outlets Internews is supporting need to run with thewith local power and capacity to function without state intervention. Individual Ministries cannot direct INGO’s in there already approved development activities in-country. International community doesn’t want A. K. Khuram or any other government official to scrutinize aid to free media.
A spokesperson for the US embassy in Kabul, referring to the way MoIC handled this radio situation radio Sulai Paygham said “there are institutional frameworks in place, through the courts and through the laws that are in place, that those two parties should pursue the case; it shouldn’t be pursued through intimidation or through pressure on independent media and whenever a case should be made it should be made through the institution and it should be dealt with institutionally rather that politically or personally by the individuals involved … The US government supports institutions”
Ownership, management structure and monitoring of free media:
This incident raises the question of whether the The minister hasn’t understands realized what independentfree media is. The minister assumes the station manager is talks about Angahr as an Internews appointee “Internews has supported 32 free and independent local radio stations across the country with the purpose of being independent afghan owned and run local media. The appointment of station managers is made by Afghan boards of management, not Internews, when Internews becomes aware of corruption, or significant missmanagment or any contravention of the agreement we have with stations, Internews will consult with the stations board of management, staff and key community to leaders to identify and rectify problems.” , and Suli Paygham is one of these radio stations established in Khost province “ said Jan McArthur, Internews country director.
Businesses and organizations are part of structure and ownership of media all over the world; but free media function editorially independent of their funders and founders. Wwhen I was skimming through the pages of this radio stations radio Sulai Paygham bylaws, I noticed that in the first page, the first article first, it saysstates that the radio station “is “radio Sulai Paygham is invested in Khost for providing information and entertainment for Khost people, ownership and editorial policies of this radio station Sulai Paygham wouldare be independent of the government. None of the tribes, ethnic groups, political factions, religious and geographical groups willould have editorial control over content. over its editorial”
The Government of Afghanistan government registered this radio station based on it’s existing structure and bylaws and this legimates the bylaws created by the station. By approving the stations structure and bylaws and issuing a radio Sulai Paygham with this article and issued certificate forof broadcasting for the station, meaning the government has recognized the independence of the radio station. It could be argued that wWhen the Ministry of Iminister of information and Cculture or any other government official tries to intervene in station operations or change station content, without legally backed reasons, then this contravenes the laws that do exist in Afghanistan.is threatening the independence of the radio,
The station manager states that it comes contrary to the law. Angahr said “the role of law: one radio can play Quran throughout the day, another radio can play music all day long; as long as they aren’t violating the law. Our radio station Radio Sulai Paygham hhas done nothing contrary to the law, given that whatever we do and whatever we broadcast is up to us” the station manager continued Angahr continued “we are a player in Khost, and lthough there is a state radio, another radio, a TV station. Khost state radio is financially supported by Americans; but we have the audience. International and Afghan organizations deal with us, US ambassador came and did a live interview on our station”
Internews country director, Miss Jan McArthur said “Internews is not in a position to remove the station manager from the station and does not believe there is good reason to remove the station manager from the station. Based on our understanding of the media law we can find no legal reason that might legitimize the government intervening in the management of this station”
The Afghan Media law has a list of media violations. Karim Khuram mentions none of theose in his letter, each of the violations, after the revision by media complaint commission has certain fine. In any case, confiscating or taking the ownership of the radio station is not a fine. According to the minister letter, the protestors are employees of the radio station Sulai Paygham, but the station manager, Angahr, radio manager said there is no grounds for that claim “we have ten full time staff; in addition we have sixteen volunteers or part timers. The protestors might have been part time volunteers at some point. They are not radio employees. Can the minister show any proof, a contract of something?”
Knowledge of MoIC on methods of local conflict and conflict resolution:
Sometime ago a similar protest letter was sent to Foundation for Culture and Civil Society (FCCS). The letter was sent by almost the same civil society groups protesting against the same radio station. Radio Sulai Paygham now. In the letter the process of election for FCCS board in Khost was condemned. I am attaching that same letter. A number of staff at the radio station have raised their concern that the believe the motivation for complaint in the letter to the Minister from some community members is based on There is one share criteria for objection against both radio sulai paygham and FCCS, that is money and financial benefits.
The station manager Angahr referring to his problem with some civil society groups said “you know some peopleAfghans, when they can’t do anything, they don’t want other to do it either. If somebody does something which counts then they say, he got all the money for it”.
I asked Mohammad Saeed Niazi from FCCS about the board election in Khost, he said “those elected says why there is no salary. Those not selected says, the board has all the money. In Afghanistan we can’t feed the starving, but we also can’t tolerate the non-starvings” Niazi added that the board is selected for two years and it’s soon going to be over, with reference to those protesting against the election Niazi said “the two year old board is over, if any one else want to be on the board or want to appoint a new board please come forward, Allah may give you strength”
It’s worth mentioning the current head of the board is Mrs. Saira Shariff, who was later selected to the parliament. This is contrary to the protesters claim who said she can’t win votes.
In the letter, the minister talks about the removing tof he station manager from a radio station in Khost. Mr. Zahid Shah Angahr as the manager of radio Sulla (peace).However the name he gives to the station could refer to 2 stations, one is Afghan run and owned and one is run by the collation forces. Consequnetly it is not entirely clear by the content of the letter which station he is referring to, we have presumed for the purpose of this article that it is the Afghan owned and run station. There are two possibilities. First, the minister talks about a different radio, called Sulla (peace); which is run by coalition forces. Or the minister doesn’t know the radio station managed by Zahid Shah Angahr is not Sulla (Peace) but radio Sulai Paygham.
In the letter 108 dated 02, 03, 1386 the ministry of information and culture writes to Kabul governor “… administrative changes are the responsibility of the license holder. Unless, the protestors have strong evidence that the radio station is not compliantaisant with media law. In which case, the complaints handling commission would be the authority to help” for your further readings I am copying the letter attached. We are facing two similar cases, i.e. protest of some civil society groups against local radio but the ministry has dual way of dealing with it. Meaning letter1088 orders the removal of the manager and letter 108 talks about compliance with the law, arguing why the ministry cannot interfere with managements of the station..
Letter 108 signed by the minister is coming from the Directorate of Document Registry and Relations while private radio and TV, related issues should be corresponded through general directorate of broadcast, department of media registration. It could be argued that the Minister has issued a letter n other words the minister has smuggled out a letter from the ministry which carriesto impose personal and political agendas, rather than following the objective guidance of the law..inclination.