Afghan man pioneers women’s programs on TV

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Krishman Naz smiles during the recording of her program inside a studio of Zan TV in Kabul. (Photo by Sayed Salahuddin)
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Employees of Zan TV line up outside the building of the network in this undated photo provided by the station to Arab News in Kabul. (Photo by Sayed Salahuddin)
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Armaghan Malikzada, left, talks with Khalida Rashid. (Photo by Sayed Salahuddin)
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Journalists at work at Zan TV. (Photo by Sayed Salahuddin)
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A camerawoman records Krishma's show. (Photo by Sayed Salahuddin)
Updated 21 March 2018

Afghan man pioneers women’s programs on TV

KABUL: When Hamid Samar announced two positions for TV presenters for a female program in Afghanistan’s eastern Jalalabad city over a year ago, only two women applied for the job.
Both had one key condition; while presenting the program they would only appear in “chadari,” the all-enveloping burqa that also covers the face and is worn by many women in Afghanistan’s countryside.
Samar was shocked to find that after 16 years of US-led war that has brought unprecedented freedom, especially for women in Afghanistan, many women in rural areas still have to abide by traditional values and cultural restrictions — they fear that violating these is a risk to their lives.
He and his mother, who has written extensively on women’s rights during her more than 35 years as a campaigner for Afghan women, thought running such a program with women wearing chadari would only draw international attention to the “negative” aspects of women’s lives in Afghanistan.
Samar, 36, who has worked in the past in the private sector including in the production industry, wanted to promote women’s rights by depicting the “positive” side of life in Afghanistan, but did not know how.
His mother suggested to him that with the nearly 40 television stations that have mushroomed since the Taliban’s ousting and with their focus entirely on men, it was time to set up a network dedicated to women to highlight their gains and help them become assertive and campaign for their rights as enshrined in Islam.
So he launched “Zan” (Woman) TV eight months back in Kabul.
“In the past 16 years (since the Taliban’s fall), one thing is crystal clear — that the (Afghan) media have worked more to promote men’s capacity,” Samar told Arab News recently in his network’s office.
“Most of the media in society have played the role of making leaders such as politicians and lawmakers and we wanted to create a similar tribune solely for women,” he said.
His campaign to launch the first TV station for women in Afghanistan became the start of a fight for defending his reputation in a society where some clerics and even government security forces suspected that he was undermining cultural values and Islam through the network.
Even women applying to work for the station initially were accompanied by their parents to make sure that it was a “safe and clean environment.”
“The perception initially was that this is a center for bad deeds, for provoking girls against their fathers and women against their husbands. There were some pro-government ulema (Muslim scholars) who even said that its (the TV station’s) ‘founder is a Jew,’ there was lots of propaganda,” recalls Samar.
“Fortunately, after watching the contents of the program, they realized that this TV station is the most positive one compared to others,” he said.
Now Samar, unlike the owners of many TV stations here, does not use an armored vehicle for his daily needs and armed bodyguards for his protection.
His team of 48 women employees include his sister, sister-in-law and mother, who is also a member of the TV station’s board.
Having close family female members working in TV has helped him to hire women easily as this has given other families assurance about the safety and modesty of their next of kin.
Wearing colorful headscarves and putting on mild makeup, many of the army of employees — from presenters to camerawomen and producers — are university graduates.
Khalida Rashid, who has a degree from a journalism faculty, explained that part of the challenge for women journalists in Afghanistan is that officials are not as accessible to women as they are to men media personnel.
“There are challenges, such as safety, for us. When you raise the voice of women in a traditional society like Afghanistan that in itself is a challenge. The work of women journalists in Afghanistan is a risky one, but me and my colleagues have managed to confront the challenges …” she told Arab News.
Like other TV stations here, Zan runs cooking, entertainment, political discussions, news and analytical shows, but with the focus mostly on women.
One of its main programs is “Islam and Society,” broadcast live for an hour each day. It is directed by Armaghan Malikzada, a 23- year-old woman who has a degree in Islamic studies.
She invites a cleric to explain the rights of women stipulated in Islam and airs questions from callers who include men and women.
“The feedback we get from people is positive and encouraging. We are informing Afghan women what their rights are under Islam and that they should be strong to defend their rights,” she said.
The entertainment part of the TV schedule includes foreign and local movies as well as songs and entertainment for families. Krishma Naz, who is in charge of the program, says the station censors those parts of the songs and movies that are “indecent.”
Samar says that he has managed to keep his station out of the factional, religious and tribal conflict that have become part of the daily fight among politicians.
As the country hopes to start peace talks with the Taliban in coming months, Samar’s next show will be on women’s role in the negotiations. That will be followed by another item on parliamentary elections set for later this year and for the presidential one slated for the coming year, when he and his colleagues hope a woman will also stand for office.
One of his occasional disagreements with female family members at home is over switching between Zan TV and other stations.


Egyptian news presenter Aya Shaheen tests positive for coronavirus

Updated 2 min 37 sec ago

Egyptian news presenter Aya Shaheen tests positive for coronavirus

  • Egypt has a total of 24,985 cases of coronavirus infections

DUBAI: Egyptian news presenter Aya Abdelrhman Shaheen revealed on Sunday that she tested positive for the coronavirus.
The eXtra News channel presenter posted on her Facebook page:  
“I have tested positive for the coronavirus. All I need in the upcoming period is your genuine prayers. I have great faith that I will overcome this virus thanks to your love and support. I will be back soon to tell you my experience with COVID-19.”

Egypt shortened a night curfew by one hour on Sunday as it recorded new highs in the daily increases in novel coronavirus cases and deaths.
The Health Ministry said 1,536 new cases had been confirmed including 46 deaths, bringing total cases to 24,985 and deaths to 959.
Earlier, the prime minister’s office said a night curfew would end at 5 a.m. instead of 6 a.m. The curfew begins at 8 p.m., though its start had been brought forward to 5 p.m. last week during the holiday that follows the Eid holiday at the end of Ramadan.
The curfew is one of a number of measures including the closure of schools, cafes and places of worship, that are aimed at curbing the pandemic.