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.”


Germany in push to resurrect talks with Taliban

Updated 26 May 2019
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Germany in push to resurrect talks with Taliban

  • Only the Afghans ‘can decide upon the future of their country’

KABUL, BERLIN: Germany, a leading donor and member of the NATO-led coalition in Afghanistan, has been talking with the Taliban and the Afghan government in an effort to restart peace talks to end 18 years of conflict, officials said.

While the Taliban have been talking with US officials since October about withdrawal of international troops, they have so far refused formal talks with the Western-backed government, which they dismiss as a “puppet” regime.

Berlin’s special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Markus Potzel, has visited Kabul for talks with the Afghan government and met Taliban officials in Doha at least twice this month.

“The current chance for a process toward a more peaceful Afghanistan should not be missed. If the friends of Afghanistan — and Germany is one of them — together can help in this effort, then we should do it,” Potzel said.

“In the end, only the Afghans themselves, including the Taliban, can decide upon the future of their country.”

The chief US negotiator in Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, in March said that a draft agreement had been reached on a withdrawal of US forces in exchange for a commitment by the Taliban to cut ties with militant groups such as Al-Qaeda.

But there has been no agreement yet on a cease-fire or a start to talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban, both seen as key conditions for a settlement.

An Afghan delegation had been due to meet Taliban officials in the Qatari capital Doha last month to build the basis for possible negotiations, but the meeting was canceled at the last minute after a dispute over the number of participants.

FASTFACT

 

● At least 3,804 Afghan civilians were killed in the war last year. ● 14,000 US troops are still stationed in Afghanistan.

“We realize that US-Taliban talks will gain momentum only if the insurgent leaders start engaging with the Afghan representatives,” a senior German official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Sohail Shaheen, a spokesman for the Taliban’s political office in Doha, said that Germany was one among several countries to have offered help to seek a peaceful resolution. 

The EU and Indonesia are among those to have offered help, another Taliban official said, declining to be named.

Discussions were held with Germany about an Afghan-Taliban meeting in Germany but no decision has been made, Shaheen told Reuters.

 

Captives subjected to abuse

Afghan captives held by the Taliban have been subjected to abuse, ill-treatment and actions that may amount to torture, the UN said on Sunday.

The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan said it interviewed 13 detainees from a group of 53 recently rescued from the Taliban, mainly members of Afghan forces but also civilians and government officials captured by the insurgents.

The group was freed on April 25 when Afghan troops raided a Taliban-run detention facility in the Khas Uruzgan district in southern Uruzgan province.

Most of the captives were held since 2018, with three since 2016, the UNAMA statement said, adding they were kept in poor conditions and subjected to forced labor. It cites the detainees as saying that the Taliban killed some of their captives.

“I am gravely concerned about these serious allegations of ill-treatment, torture and unlawful killing of civilians and security personnel, as well as the deplorable conditions of detention,” said Tadamichi Yamamoto, the head of UNAMA.

The detainees were shackled while in captivity and almost all said they were beaten. The Taliban told them it was punishment for supporting the government, working with the Americans or fighting the insurgents.