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09KABUL1799 2009-07-09 14:32:00 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Kabul
Cable title:  

MOJ POISED TO PUBLISH MEDIA LAW: A POSITIVE, BUT

Tags:   PGOV PREL AF PHUM KDEM 
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1. (U) On July 8 Minister of Justice Sanwar Danish announced
that MOJ will soon publish the media law in the official
gazette. Palace sources also confirmed that President Karzai
authorized the publication. The law will reflect the Afghan
Supreme Court's March 2009 determination that the National
Assembly's Lower House does not have the authority to confirm
the President's nominee for Director of Radio and Television
Afghanistan (RTA) (reftel A). A MOJ official told us on July
9 that MOJ may print the law as soon as July 11.



2. (SBU) Journalists largely support publication of the law
even with the modification giving the President control over
the RTA Director position. Sediqullah Tauhidi, Director of
Nai Open Media and board member of the Afghan National
Journalists Union said his union strongly favors the law in
that it provides legal protections to journalists who express
critical views, provides a framework for journalists to
express complaints, and recognizes journalists' right to
unionize. In terms of the law's immediate effects, however,
journalists are less sanguine. Moby Media Group co-owner
Saad Mohseni told the Ambassador on July 7 that, "it is too
late for the media law to level the playing field for
challengers to Karzai in the election; the window of
opportunity has closed." Co-owner Jahid Mohseni added, "if
the President directly selects the RTA Director, it will
remain a tool of his administration." Human rights activists
are even more critical. RTA is already a government
propaganda outlet, Afghan Independent Human Rights
Commission's Nader Naderi said. Naderi claimed that by
vetoing the text passed by Parliament which balanced control
of RTA between the legislative and executive branches,
ignoring Parliament's override of the veto (reftel B), and
trumping up a constitutional excuse to refer the law to the
Supreme Court for modification, Karzai enshrined RTA's
partiality and mocked the principle of separation of powers.


Comment


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3. (SBU) Publication of the media law is an important step in
that it establishes principles, structures, and processes
which could, in future years, help protect freedom of
expression. Low capacity and lack of political will, the
latter evidenced by the continued imprisonment of Sayed
Perwez Kambakhsh, Ghous Zalmai, and Mullah Qari Mushtaq,
(reftel C,D) will prevent the law from having any significant
effect in the short term.
EIKENBERRY