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Economy, Communications

uncensored news, Kabul Times, ruling government, largest newspaper, ceased publication

Telephone and telegraph networks link the major towns. In 2000 there were 1.2 telephone mainlines in use for every 1,000 inhabitants. One international telephone link is maintained through Iran. The first Afghan television station, built with Japanese aid, went on the air in Kabul in 1978. After the Taliban took control of the capital, they closed the country’s television stations and outlawed television and movies. Television stations began broadcasting again soon after the Taliban were driven from the capital by Northern Alliance forces in November 2001.

The history of newspapers, magazines, and other publications in Afghanistan has varied, depending upon the level of censorship in the ruling government. The first printed newspaper was distributed in 1875, and two other small newspapers were printed just after 1900. With the beginning of the reign of King Amanullah in 1919, the press flourished with the publication of more than 15 newspapers and magazines. By the 1950s, 95 percent of the nation’s printed materials came from the government. The small remainder was produced by provincial hand-operated presses. In 1962 the Kabul Times appeared as the first English-language paper. Bakhtar News Agency subscribed to a variety of international press services and its news bulletin was available as well. Following the 1978 coup the Kabul Times was renamed the Kabul New Times and began publishing Communist rhetoric that was reminiscent of the worst days of the Cold War. The newspaper was highly confrontational and hostile to the West. In reaction to the suppression of the free press, antiregime shabnamah (night letters) were secretly printed (primarily in Kabul) with uncensored news and opinions. In 1996 Afghanistan had 12 daily newspapers, but most ceased publication after the Taliban came to power. The Taliban officially revived two newspapers in 1998 to serve as organs of their regime. In early 2002 the country’s new interim government passed a law declaring freedom of the press. Subsequently, more than 100 newspapers began to be published and distributed in Afghanistan. Kabul Weekly is the largest newspaper in circulation.

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