Afghanistan’s blogosphere

I’ve been slowly exploring the English language Afghan blogging landscape and have come across some interesting sites.

There are several good blogs written by migrant workers, though these tend to run for a year or two and then peter out, as well as from Afghans who have retuned from abroad and usually show a greater understanding of the place than expats like myself.

There seem to be loads of ones from US and UK soldiers which I have only glanced at so far, but did recently see an article about British soldiers even doing video blogs from Helmand, which seems like a novel idea. I wonder what they’ll be filming?

Then there are some excellent news and analysis blogs from Afghanophiles in foreign lands. I’ve put my favourite of all of these in the blogroll down on the right hand side already.

Most exciting though are the ones I’ve been reading this week; ‘home grown’ Afghan blogs, such as The New Afghanistan. There is even an Afghan Association of Blog Writers, Afghan Penlog. Nasim Fekrat is at the forefront of this, writing in his own blog of journalistic freedoms and pressures, amongst other things.

Afghan Penlog has 128 members, mostly writing in Dari or Pashto. Nasim has talked about it in an interview on Global Voices:

The main objective was to build a community to bring Afghan bloggers together from around the world and defend their rights.

We don’t have free media in Afghanistan, but through blogging, journalists and other people who can’t (or don’t want to) use their real names in Afghan media can share their ideas.

Afghan blogs are improving and in increasing day by day. As far as my own research shows, blogs are becoming more popular in Afghanistan. It is a new phenomenon for Afghan people, and they are very interested to go for it. I meet people every day that ask me for help making a blog. The fact that we lack free media also encourages people to blog.

Nasim is also involved with Afghan Press, a fledgling website designed to provide local Afghan news to a wider audience, hopefully avoiding the bias towards the cataloguing of deaths of foreign soldiers and the squabbling of NATO that is the mainstay of international reporting on Afghanistan.

It’s all the more encouraging to come across these sites at a time when there seems to be growing pressure on Afghan journalists. Sayed Parwez Kambakhsh was sentenced to death without fair trial for allegedly downloading and distributing ‘blasphemous’ material at Balkh University in January. His sentence has met with international condemnation and, more importantly, local protests.

There are hopes that his sentence will be overturned, but it has shown freedom of expression to be dangerously fragile. It has also reminded me that a right I take for granted and an activity, blogging, which I basically do for fun, can be deadly serious for some.

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One Response to “Afghanistan’s blogosphere”

  1. Pete McP Says:

    I saw this post on slashdot that links to a couple of stories about the US military starting a ‘war on blogs’ that I thought you might find interesting.

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