Afghanistan enacts law to control cyberspace

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani. (Reuters)
Updated 10 July 2017
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Afghanistan enacts law to control cyberspace

KABUL: Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani has signed into law a cybercrime bill targeting online crime and militancy by groups such as the Taliban and Islamic State, officials said Monday, amid concerns it could limit free speech.
The Cyber Crime Law criminalizes a range of online activities including hacking, spreading ethnic hatred, distribution of online defamatory speech, exposing government secrets, and cyber-terrorism within the provisions of the newly reviewed penal code.
“The law has 28 articles and it is going to control all cybercrimes. All criminals will be tracked and referred to courts,” Najib Nangyal a spokesman for the ministry of communication said.
While much of Afghanistan remains deeply rural, over 8.5 million Afghans are using the Internet in big cities such as Kabul, Herat and Mazar-i-Sharif, most of them vocal on social media such as Twitter and Facebook.
The guerrilla war waged by militants and grisly video footage of war casualties, torture, hostage victims and destruction compete daily with celebrity gossip and the latest sports news in Afghan online communities.
The Taliban, who previously rejected all modern technology, have developed a media-savvy online PR team using Twitter, Facebook and the Internet, posting statements, breaking news of the latest attacks and taking responsibility for assaults, though their claims are often wildly exaggerated.
Their efforts pale globally in comparison to the Daesh group, which has actively exploited social media to lure thousands of foreign fighters to Syria and Iraq, and which is making gradual inroads in Afghanistan.
“We are trying to make a cyber police team to track the criminals. The government is also working to track, list and block all the militants’ online accounts,” Nangyal said.
However, media watchdog group Nai warned the law could have a detrimental effect on access to information in Afghanistan, which was ranked 120th out of 180 countries in the 2017 World Press Freedom Index compiled by Reporters Without Borders.
“After reviewing law we reached the conclusion that the law will limit the freedom of speech,” Nai said in a statement, which also criticized the wording of the legislation as “vague.”


Trial starts for suspect in tourist killings in Tajikistan

Updated 51 min 16 sec ago
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Trial starts for suspect in tourist killings in Tajikistan

  • Man who swore allegiance to Daesh before killing four foreign cyclists in ex-Soviet Tajikistan went on trial
  • Four of Abdusamadov’s accomplices were killed by police during a manhunt

DUSHANBE, Tajikistan: A man who swore allegiance to Daesh before killing four foreign cyclists in ex-Soviet Tajikistan went on trial Tuesday in a process closed to the public.
Tajikistan’s Supreme Court spokesperson told AFP Tuesday the trial for the “brutal murder of four foreign cyclists” had begun in the suspect’s high-security detention center.
Hussein Abdusamadov, 33, already confessed to killing American cycling tourists Lauren Geoghegan and Jay Austin, Dutch citizen Rene Wokke and Swiss citizen Markus Hummel in July.
The victims were struck by a car as they cycled along the remote Pamir Highway, a popular route among adventure tourists, before being set upon with knives and firearms.
Four of Abdusamadov’s accomplices were killed by police during a manhunt.
A video of the five men pledging allegiance to Daesh leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi was released by an official Daesh media channel.
Tajik authorities have so far ignored the video evidence, instead blaming a former opposition party — the Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan — that was banned by the government in 2015.
The fact the trial is closed has raised concerns about due process in a country with a poor record on political freedoms and human rights.
Abdusamadov implicated the IRPT as the ultimate organizer of the attack in a televised confession, but critics say the government is using the case to tar the opposition.
A dozen senior members of the IRPT are serving long sentences up to life on charges government critics say are trumped up.
In addition to Abdusamadov, 16 other people stand accused of not offering information to the authorities that could have prevented the attack, a source in the police told AFP.