A total of 17 internet cafes in the capital city of Kabul have been forcibly closed by Afghan authorities for allowing surfers to access immoral websites, according to Pakhwok Afghan News.
The Afghan Telecommunications Regulatory Authority
(ATRA) had reportedly warned operators last week that they cannot allow customers to look at porn or other un-Islamic websites. A member of ATRA, Muhammad Ibrahim Abbasi, told reporters that the Authority was under order from the council of ministers to
ban all immoral activities of net cafes, which had been violating Islamic teachings and the constitution of the country.
A subsequent investigation turned up the 17 cafes, which were ordered to close immediately. Owners can appeal the
decisions if they can prove the alleged activity was not taking place. If a reversal of the decision to close a café takes place, the owner can also request compensation.
Until recently, Afghanistan's Internet has been notably free of government censorship. That stems largely from the limited impact and visibility of the Net domestically. But the Afghan government finally got around to imposing national filters in June,
when the Ministry of Communications instructed local ISPs to blacklist websites that promote alcohol, gambling, and pornography, or ones that provide dating and social networking services.
Afghanistan's Internet regulators are still struggling to
enforce their rules. Despite the order, the vast majority of sites violating the regulator's code are still available. Even ostensibly blocked sites are easily viewable using straightforward proxies or circumvention software.
Yet the government
has already been tempted to use the new Internet regulations for more than just defending public morals. The government has told ISPs to include news reporting websites on their blacklists. The Wall Street Journal reported last week that the
Pashto-language website Benawa had been blocked in the country after it incorrectly reported that the first vice president, Mohammed Qasim Fahim, had died. (The site corrected the error within a half hour.)
There are also reports that a ban is
being sought for another Pashto news site, Tolafghan.
Beginning on the 1st of May, Afghanistan will begin filtering content on the internet, according to the Financial Times, noting that a senior official of the Afghani government believes gambling, alcohol, and pornography are against [their] values.
Twenty internet service providers will soon filter websites promoting porn, drugs, alcohol, dating, and weapons, though there's no word as to whether Jihadist-related material will be readily accessible by Afghani citizens.
Afghanistan will set up an Internet filter to block Internet sites with sexual or violent content, a minister said.
Information and Culture Minister Sayed Makhdoom Raheen said the new Internet bans were not linked to media freedom issues.
We have specified that four sites which announce sexual issues, drug trafficking and cultivation, violence issues -- like making bombs and gambling -- must be banned. The intention is to stop the seduction of the youth generation, Raheen said.
Regarding filtering terrorist-linked sites like the Taliban's, Raheen said he had not ordered a ban on the site which normally shows footage of Taliban attacks, including suicide raids, as well as military and political statements.
has not been possible to access the site for several days. The Taliban, say the site has been blocked.