Afghan media under pressure after journalist deaths

An Afghan journalist working for Tolo News lights candles in front of pictures of his colleagues who were killed in a suicide attack Kabul, Afghanistan September 7, 2018. Picture taken September 7, 2018. (Reuters)
Updated 10 September 2018
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Afghan media under pressure after journalist deaths

KABUL: Afghan media are facing growing pressure to cut back coverage of militant attacks following the death of two television reporters who were among 20 killed in an attack on a sports club in Kabul last week.
Following an explosion in April that killed nine reporters, photographers and cameramen covering an attack, Afghanistan has been the deadliest country in the world for journalists this year, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.
On Wednesday, Samim Faramarz, a reporter for Tolo News, and cameraman Ramiz Ahmadi were killed by a car bomb apparently targeting first responders and journalists as they were covering a suicide attack at a wrestling club in Kabul.
Their deaths came two and a half years after seven Tolo TV employees were killed by a Taliban suicide attacker who rammed a car bomb into a bus driving them home from the station.
Media coverage of attacks had already been noticeably reduced following the deadly blast in April and last week’s incident is likely to restrict coverage further, said Lotfullah Najafizada, head of Tolo News.
“The space is shrinking,” he told Reuters. “We have lost colleagues in four separate attacks in two years alone. That demonstrates that the media is under immense pressure.”
Afghanistan’s vibrant media sector has been one of the comparatively few undisputed success stories in the years following the overthrow of the Taliban, with the appearance of stations like Tolo as well as an array of competitors including 1TV, Ariana News, Shamshad TV and Khurshid TV.
With international media presence in Afghanistan sharply reduced since the withdrawal of international troops in 2014, domestic media outlets have filled the gap but their work has become increasingly difficult.
“You have a lot of no-go areas, there is a long list of things you cannot do,” Najafizada said.
Already large parts of the countryside, much of which is under the control of the Taliban, are out of bounds for journalists, who have been regarded with suspicion and sometimes outright hostility by the insurgents.
As the major cities still controlled by the government become increasingly dangerous, there would be more restrictions on coverage, less access and less support, he said.
“This is certainly creating another layer of restrictions for a free press which is worrying.”
For the journalists and media workers themselves, the growing roll call of colleagues killed while working is an increasingly oppressive fact of life.
“It has been proved to the world that Afghanistan is not a safe place for people of Afghanistan and for journalists,” said Soraya Amiri, a Tolo News producer.
“This is a clear and bitter fact that we have to believe and accept.”


Google fined $1.7bn for search ad blocks

Updated 20 March 2019
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Google fined $1.7bn for search ad blocks

  • Google received three fines in the past two years
  • EU Commission says Google has been blocking competitors for the past ten years

BRUSSELS: Google was fined $1.7 billion on Wednesday for blocking rival online search advertisers, the third large European Union antitrust penalty for the Alphabet business in two only years.

The European Commission, which said the fine accounted for 1.29 percent of Google’s turnover in 2018, said in a statement that the anti-competitive practices had lasted a decade.

“Google has cemented its dominance in online search adverts and shielded itself from competitive pressure by imposing anti-competitive contractual restrictions on third-party websites,” European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said.

The case concerned websites, such as of newspaper or travel sites, with a search function that produces search results and search adverts. Google’s AdSense for Search provided such search adverts.

The misconduct included stopping publishers from placing any search adverts from competitors on their search results pages, forcing them to reserve the most profitable space on their search results pages for Google’s adverts and a requirement to seek written approval from Google before making changes to the way in which any rival adverts were displayed.

The AdSense advertising case was triggered by a complaint from Microsoft in 2010. Both companies subsequently dropped complaints against each other in 2016.

Last year, Vestager imposed a record $4.92 billion fine on Google for using its popular Android mobile operating system to block rivals. This followed a $2.74 billion fine in June 2017 for hindering rivals of shopping comparison websites.

Google is now trying to comply with the order to ensure a level playing field with proposals to boost price comparison rivals and prompt Android users to choose their preferred browsers and search apps. Critics however are still not happy.