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Afghanistan: Interview with Baktash Siawash, blogger and journalist

What follows is an interview about censorship, media and blogs in Afghanistan with blogger and journalist Baktash Siawash. Baktash writes for several magazines including WashingtonPrism.

Q: Please introduce yourself and your blog.

A: My Name is Baktash Siawash and I live in Afghanistan; my blog's name is “Writings of Siawash” (Neweshtehayeh Siawash in Farsi). I started my blog back in 2003 in Kabul. I used to publish my writings via provider Persianblog, but after publishing an article about “Bad Veil (Bad Hijad) in Tehran” , my blog got removed from this Iran-based provider. At present, I have a new blog that can be found here: http://www.kabul.tchatcheblog.com/.

Q: How you evalute the situation of Afghan blogs at present?

A: I think writing blogs in Afghanistan started in 2002, and bloggers were a small number of people who had access to the internet in their working place. I mean most of these bloggers worked with NGOs, UN or other foreign offices in Afghanistan. Some Afghan blogs also got established by Afghans who live in Canada, the US and other parts of the world.

In 2004, the number of Afghan bloggers increased to around 300 blogs. In 2005, statistics showed the number of Afghan blogs had risen to around 900. It seems at present we have 3000 bloggers but many of them do not update their blogs in a month. A small number of them are active and update there blog, daily, weekly, and monthly. Most Afghan blog are about poetery, politics and culture.

Q: It seems Afghanistan has enjoyed freedom of expression and that there are many journals. Do you think blogs can bring an added value to freedom of epression? How has their role been so far?

A: In Afghanistan, there are about 70 radio stations, 400 daily, weekly and monthly magazines, 5 news agencies, 7 TV stations, but still we don’t have freedom of expression. The Afghan government cannot accept critical journals and journalists in Afghanistan. There are a lot of examples I can mention. Narmgo, an Afghan independent journalist, was sent to jail just for his criticism about an Afghan Minister. The Afghan government controls Afghan blogs and 2 days earlier Afghan independent blogger and journalist Kamran Merhazar was jailed for a few days by the Afghan special police agency NDS. Because he was also critical regarding the government.

These examples show that the pressure on blogs and other sections of the media increases and that working with newspapers, journals and blogs in Afghanistan becomes more difficult.

Q: How is the relationship between traditional media and blogs in Afghanistan? Do many journalists blog or not?

A: I think that blog is a new concept in Afghanistan. Here, we do have some newspapers and weeklies which have blogs and websites but in general, working with blogs is still in its infancy here. Most of the Afghan politicians, journalists and writers cannot even use email. Another problem in this area is electricity. Kabul is the capital of Afghanistan but still its citizens suffer from regular blackouts. Moreover, most Afghan daily, weekly and monthly newspapers use information from websites. This happens especially often with the BBC Persian Service: There's a lot of reprinting without mentioning the source. In Afghanistan, nobody attaches any value to copyright.

Q: Would you like to share any idea with Global Voices audience?

A: I know that most of the Global Voices readers are journalists, human rights activists and defenders of freedom of expression. I ask them not to leave Afghan journalists and freedom of expression fighters alone.

18 comments

  • Afghan

    It is funny, parts of this interview is copied from an article which was a complete research of Afghan Blogs and published some times before in Jadid media by a famous Afghan blogger Nasim Fekrat (pen name Sohrab Kabuli). This is the link of his article here:
    http://www.jadidmedia.com/index.php?option=com_content&Itemid=30&task=view&id=182

    As i know, this guy who interviewed start learning internet in 2005 and started writing blog just a few months before. If he started his blog in 2003 why his blog is not listed in this reseach:
    http://www.jadidmedia.com/index.php?option=com_content&Itemid=30&task=view&id=182

    No one heard his name. About deleting his blog from persianblog.com You may know that the policy making blog in persianblog.com which controlling the hosting server in Iran is very restrict. Of course when an Afghan come to insult another country’s culture and put porno pictures it is against Persianblog.com service policy which is hosting in Islamic Republic of Iran.

    Today, it is very normal that every one like to lie because there is no resources they think.

    cheers
    Afghan

  • Hamid Tehrani

    I would like to answer to your comment because there are some accusaitions there. You say “About deleting his blog from persianblog.com You may know that the policy making blog in persianblog.com which controlling the hosting server in Iran is very restrict. Of course when an Afghan come to insult another country’s culture and put porno pictures it is against Persianblog.com service policy which is hosting in Islamic Republic of Iran.”
    1-Criticizing Veil policy in Iran does not mean somebody published porno photos!!!You accused Afghan blogger without presenting any proof!It is really serious matter!!
    2-Iranians , Arabs and Afghans use USA based internet services and crticizie USA government policy.An Afghan can do exactly the same regarding Iranian policy.

  • i would like to say some thing about afghan Responses to
    Baktash Siawash ,that he saying “If he started his blog in 2003 why his blog is not listed in this reseach:
    http://www.jadidmedia.com/index.php?option=com_content&Itemid=30&task=view&id=182

    do you know the person who is the researcher of this article ” i say you he is an afghan(HAZARA) which belang to (WAHDAT) Parti and in this research just he mention his friends from Hazara Parti ,Becuse of that i would like to say you that here in afghanstan we have a problum that is about ,TAJIK,Pashtoon and HAZARA.

    YOu cant finde any one Pashtoon in his research

    thanks

  • you can see Baktash Siawash blog in persianblog in this adress: http://www.siawash.persianblog.com/ now search his name in persian in google then you can find some thing about his pervies adress.

  • News of removing Baktash Siawash Blog from Persianblog list:http://www.kabul.tchatcheblog.com/10320757/blog-article.aspx

  • Freshta

    i afound News of Baktash Siawash REmoved Blog Here :http://www.iranpressnews.com/source/023397.htm

  • Now See this one on his Blog:http://www.kabul.tchatcheblog.com/10320757/blog-article.aspx

  • Afghan

    ُSaman! You are first a racist who called the researcher in his race. I give you the details of what he wrote in his research. The interview is copied here and Hamid is like other Iranian who hearing Afghanistan’s name nealy.
    This are the bloggers which is all from Pashton ethnic not only Hazara:
    پیشینه وبلاگ و وبلاگنویسی افغانستان حد اقل به چهار سال قبل بر می‌گردد. یعنی درست بعد از یازده‌هم سپتامبر. پیشگامان وبلاگ‌‌های فارسی وبلاگ‌نویسان ایران هستند. اولین وبلاگ‌نویس فارسی سلمان جریری بود. بعد از آن حسین درخشان بیشترین خدمتی را در عرصه وبلاگ‌نویسی انجام داد.
    و اما نخستين وبلاگ‌نویس در داخل افغانستان عزیز‌الله حکیمی بود. او در یکی از موسسات خارجی کار می‌کرد و از موقعیت و دسترسی که به اينترنت داشت اولین وبلاگ‌ را از داخل افغانستان در سال 2002 بنام “کنکاش” ساخت. در افغانستان تا آن زمان اينترنت پدیده تازه‌ای بود. فقط موسسات خارجی بودند که اينترنت داشتند. تا آن زمان حتی مهمترین نهاد‌های دولتی از اينترنت برخوردار نبودند.
    چنانچه گفته می‌شود، اولین وبلاگ‌نویس افغانستان، گرداننده “غزل امروز افغانستان” آقای افضلی در کانادا است که بیشتر به شعر و شاعری می‌پردازد. بعد از آن عبدالملک شفیعی با وبلاگ “بامیان”، امیر سیاقشو (سخیداد هاتف) با “لحظه‌ها”، صبوالله سیاسنگ، عمر راوی با “یک برگ” جز اولین وبلاگ‌نویسان افغانی بودند که در خارج از کشور می‌نوشتند. بعدها آقای شریف سعیدی، خانم حمیرا نکهت دستگیر زاده، محمد کاظم کاظمی، لیلا صراحت روشنی و ظاهر تایمن وبلاگ‌های مفیدی را در حوزه ادبیات فارسی گشودند که تا حال اکثر آنها فعالند، به جز از لیلا صراحت روشنی که نه تنها با دنیای وبلاگ بلکه با این دنیا وداع گفت.

    Look, How many Hazaras there? If you are not racist and lier give an evidence or you background blogging. Baktash learned to use internet in 2005 when he was able to able to open his e-mail. I give you the evidence and the time, and his work details what he was doing if you ask further.
    This is not to ignore him, this is because he lied

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