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AFP, January 6, 2008

Afghanistan's Mullahs demand TV crackdown

Karzai ordered his information minister which handles broadcasting to "look into the concerns of the Ulemas"

KABUL - Afghanistan's Islamic clerics have called on President Hamid Karzai to clamp down on a burgeoning television industry which it accused of spreading "immorality and unIslamic culture."

The call was made during a meeting between Karzai and dozens of clerics from an influential religious council in Kabul on Friday, an official in Karzai's office told AFP under condition of anonymity on Saturday.

"The unrestrained programmes on TV has angered and prompted the Ulemas (scholars) to react," the conservative council comprising religious clerics said in a statement to Karzai, a copy of which was provided to AFP.

"Hop... is spreading immoralities and hurts the sacred religion of Islam," the statement said, referring to an MTV-style music show on Tolo TV, one of the biggest among several private stations launched after the fall of the Taliban regime.

"Afghan Star... encourages immorality among the people and is against Sharia (law)," the statement said referring to an American-Idol-type show on Tolo.

Over a dozen privately run television stations have sprung up following the fall of the Taliban, who banned TV as unIslamic during their strict 1996-2001 rule before they were toppled in a US-led invasion.

"These TVs (stations) are spreading immorality and unIslamic culture," the statement said.

Karzai ordered his information minister which handles broadcasting to "look into the concerns of the Ulemas," government-owned newspapers said, citing Karzai's office.

The US-backed Karzai -- the first-ever democratically elected Afghan president -- has been leading a democracy in the war-torn nation with a free media which has often been questioned by conservative circles.

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