Saturday, June 24, 2006

Taliban takes to hi-tech propaganda

The Taliban have begun broadcasting a pirate station called the "Voice of Sharia" from mobile transmitters in at least two southern provinces.







On the internet, unknown in Afghanistan while the Taliban were in power, there is also a sophisticated website, www.alemarah.org. In Arabic and Pashto it offers news, poetry, messages from the Taliban's spiritual leader, Mullah Omar, and regularly updated videos of the last messages of Taliban suicide bombers.

A DVD called Lions of Islam is one of a number that is widely available. It was largely filmed in Pakistan's tribal areas and includes the beheading of an Afghan alleged to be an American spy and the execution of local criminals according to Taliban Sharia justice.

In response, Western forces in the country are extending a fledgling military funded radio channel called Radio Peace into the south to counter anti-government propaganda.

"It is perhaps something we haven't paid enough attention to in the past," a Nato military spokesman, Major Luke Knittig, said.

The Afghan government issued a directive through its intelligence service on Monday which banned Afghan journalists from filming or interviewing alleged members of the Taliban. The directive also included a ban on reports "that aim to represent that the fighting spirit in Afghanistan's armed forces is weak".

The Afghan media were also told not to lead with stories about "terrorist activities". The directive was later said to bea request by the office of Hamid Karzai reflecting "the need to help the nascent media sector in Afghanistan to approach the complex issue of terrorism and terrorist activities in a principled manner".

One tape purchased by The Independent features two singers engaging in an imagined debate between President Hamid Karzai and the Taliban leader, Mullah Omar; in a style not dissimilar to that of American rappers.

"I have brought peace and stability, I defeated al-Qa'ida and the terrorists," sings the voice that represents Karzai. "You have killed your Muslim brothers to satisfy the Jews and the Infidels," sings back the voice representing Omar.

"I was elected president by free and fair elections," sings Karzai. Omar replies: "What kind of election is it that everywhere there are American and British tanks and infidel soldiers? The infidels have tanks, artillery and air support, but we have God's support."

It continues for half an hour with Karzai eventually admitting defeat.

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