Using new Internet filters, Afghanistan blocks news site

By Danny O'Brien with Bob Dietz/CPJ Staff on October 6, 2010 6:32 PM ET

The news website Benawa has been blocked in Afghanistan. (AP) Until recently, Afghanistan's Internet has been notably free of government censorship. That stems largely from the limited impact and visibility of the Net domestically: The Taliban banned the Internet during its rule, and despite a recent boom in use, the nation has only a million users out of a population of about 29 million. But the Afghan government finally got around to imposing national filters in June, when the Ministry of Communications instructed local ISPs to blacklist websites that promote alcohol, gambling, and pornography, or ones that provide dating and social networking services.

Afghanistan's Internet regulators are still struggling to enforce their rules. Despite the order, the vast majority of sites violating the regulator's code are still available. Even ostensibly blocked sites are easily viewable using straightforward proxies or circumvention software.

Yet the government has already been tempted to use the new Internet regulations for more than just defending public morals. Just three months after the introduction of the rules, the government told ISPs to include news reporting websites on their blacklists. The Wall Street Journal reported last week that the Pashto-language website Benawa had been blocked in the country after it incorrectly reported that the first vice president, Mohammed Qasim Fahim, had died. (The site corrected the error within a half hour.) The site is available on its U.S.-based servers, but Benawa's U.S.-based owner and manager Khalid Hadi told CPJ: "Our site is now banned on 97 percent of ISP servers in Afghanistan, and the Afghan government says the ban will stay indefinitely." Understandably, Hadi is angry about being pushed off Afghan servers.

There are also reports that a ban is being sought for another Pashto news site, Tolafghan.

That Internet censorship spreads beyond its initial targets should not come as a surprise. And monitoring Internet censorship poses unique problems. Unlike blacklists of books or individuals, blacklists of websites are rarely published, because providing such a list is assumed to effectively give citizens a roadmap for bypassing the flimsy defenses of a national firewall. And without such a transparent list of who is being blocked, public oversight is difficult, even in countries with strong rule of law.

Meanwhile administrations concerned by the reporting of a free press will, as apparently they did in Afghanistan, reach for filtering technology as a weapon in silencing critical voices online. Independent media aren't the only ones who find themselves at risk. This week, The New York Times reported that after years of blocking news sites and social networking forums, Iran has begun blocking the websites of domestic prominent clerics.

Online and off, journalists are among the first to be censored. But they are rarely the last.


Benawa is one of the website which shows the real picture of which is going on in AFGHANISTAN and around the globe...
I personally know the gentlemen who are working for benawa and I am pretty aware of their wisdom, talent and sympathy with their country and ppl.

we are condemn the illegitimate act of Makhdom Rahin he is irani spy

Benawa has been one of the handful Pashtu websites which tried to provide news, updates, and useful information to Afghans who do not have access to international media due to the language barrier. Benawa always has been an independent website and does not support or oppose any group or any political ideology.
I know many people that love Benawa and would like to search it on their internet again.

How can we speak of free speech and free media, when one side doesn't have the right to raise it's voice and if it does it will be banned. is a website that shows both side of the scene and let you learn the whole story then make your own judgment.There are also reports that a ban is being sought for a long list of Pashto news sites. I would like to know how far will they go and when and where will they stop, if they will. Do they really think that they will be successful in killing all Pashto speaking population? and ban all pashto media? Don't even dare to try.

Dear Readers,
Benawa is one of the best websites which gives voice to the oppressed majority of Pashton Ethnicity in the current Afghan Government. It has played a robust role the have Pashton voices heard by the worldwide readers. Its robust coverage of southern Afghanistan in news has always been my ideal and will continue to be. I and hundreds of other friends strictly condemn the ban on Benawa.

As it is so clear to all afghans inside Afghanistan or outside that here are some of selfish elements who want to bring seperations among the diffrent tribes and especially between pashtons and others,or we can also say that these elements are strongly opposite of pashto improvment at any aspect.So by making such pretends as for benawa is the easy way for them to show their racial oppositions against pashtons and pashto.Or if afghan high ranked claims that we have enough freedom of speech in the country, so is the freedom called ??? As a result i would write that their main goal is to weaken the pashto and pashtons and i can also say these authorities who give the command to block the sites are impressed by some neighbor countries.
We want banawa back

Salamona to all Pashtons
Benawa websit is one the only websit which which is working for the protection of Pasthons righs, now adays north allied group are taking reveng from innocent Pashton, in every minstry pashton people can not be found, all media they have captured, they want o show that pashtons are minority in Afghanistan, benawa website was the only website which was broudcusting facts. benawa website was the only website was protecting from Journalist, pashton and innocent people. I as Afghan and Pashton Journalist stronly condemn the ban of Benawa , and request from our president Karzai to considrate to this issue.

Said Ahmad Shah Angar October 7, 2010 1:30:36 AM ET

It's not a revolution. We always know about that. Journalist will use a VPN access to bypass these restrictions. With a VPN account, it could be possible for them to unblock all websites from anywhere. For more information about VPN, take a look there: or

Benawa is a pashto website that makes me proud to be a pashtoon... this website not only allows us access to what is going on in our country but gives those unheard opinions and cries a VOICE! Benawa is the only website in Afghanistan that doesn't hold a political position or does favoritism towards any political party. Benawa only holds side with the truth and the truth is what benawa speaks. There may be many websites out there who claim to care and are in the interest of people and their welfare but benawa is the only website that has proved that by helping those helpless war victims that have been caught in the middle of this chaos the war that we are in hope to bring freedom into the country..."freedom" a word this country has been hoping for for years but only in hope has it stayed. Benawa has helped those who have been forgotten, those who have no homes, we don't have a meal for days, who don't have a roof over their head to spend the night from the cold and snow...benawa gave them hope, benawa gave them a helping hand by raising money and feeding those in little to those who have been forgotten... to me is not just a website its something to wake up to every morning in hope of change, in hope of achievement in the country that has been in war for more than 30 years. Losing benawa doesn't mean to lose a media website it means our country losing hope of freedom our country losing hope to advance forward, it means to lose the hopes a millions who log into this website each day to learn whats going on in their country...Banning benawa is not only banning a website its a way to tell the afghan people and its nation that we don't have a right of voice...we don't have a right of say a right of opinion, and that to me is the biggest failure for our country and to those who give their lives each day in help to advance and move our country out of this oppression!

you all might know that minster of culturl and press is iranian intellegent and you all so know that iran never want pashtons in afhganistan to have thier books sites and etc
and was a famous pashto website which were pbulish and reflecting the truth so thats why iran could not tolarate it and then blocked so 1st we want a ture afghan person for this minstry and we want the trial of rahin makhdom
thank you

we condemn the illegitimate and discriminated act of the minister of culture an information
he has made this dicision on a personal base conflict with benawa as benawa published some news about him spying to iran last year.


Respectfull, may I recomend that your organization creat a petiton demanding removal of the ban on the pashton site(s) before the number of ban sites become so larg like in other counties. Why wait till the problem is so large? Also I have seen a petition for Ms. Soloki - Afghan jurnalist held in Iran, on and only 60 people have signed the petition, a very sorry situation. Would you please bring it to public attention over your wide network.

I apprecite your efforts and what you do.



Greeting and Best Wish, those who support Pashtoon Nation
Benawa web-page is one of the power ful and
hugest store of different subjects which publish the truth of our society by ours native language and also always inform us before others
So We Want From Afghan Government And Information and Cultural Ministry To free and unblock our information store
and also we want from United Nations to help us and stress on Afghan Government to unblock
( )


Hayatullah Masoom

Benawa is one of very few impartial news provider throughout Afghanistan. Banning such a website is a disgrace in this era of freedom of speech. The Afghan Culture and Information minister who is responsible for this shameful act has to be questioned in the court of law. We condemn the banning in the strongest possible terms.

Nation without freedom of speech is imprisoned and an imprisoned nation can never see the light of truth and opinions other might have for its improvement and betterment. Currently, this is exactly the Afghan nation is blindfolded by some of its corrupt officials, namely the minister of education, Makhdoom Raheen. In Raheen's philosophy, if you speak the truth, then you will be alienated and blamed as non-fit. On the contrary if you go with flow and keep the authorities happy by always defending his stand and foreign allies such as Iran content, then you will be rewarded with medals and honor. Benawa is a site that always spoke the truth and education Afghans as a national treasure. Closing Benawa for its greatness only makes our ministry of education officials weak and scared of hearing the truth. Benawa is our right, please don't deprive us and the Afghan nation from it. PLEASE!

Who ever knows Said Makhdum Rahin, he/she knows that he is an Iran government's agent. He was reassigned in this position because Iran government requested Mr. Karzai. How can we expect free speech when the Ministry of culture and press is being controlled by Iran???? Iran is know by jailing and killing it's own journalists and Reporters. Having a free media in Afghanistan is becoming a dream for afghans specially for pashto speaking afghans. I am not a native pashto speaker, but I expect equal right for all afghans, specially for those who are making the majority of the population in my country. If Mr. Said Makhdum Rahin has any problem with Pashtons he should deal withit, he shouldn't be allowed to take it on Pashto media. We are in need of websites like and journalist like Khalid Hadi. I hope that someone somewhere could hear us and STOP SUFFECATING US WITH EVERY BREATH THAT WE TAKE!!! We will fight for Beanawa and it's message as long as it takes and as for as it takes.

This is totally absurd. The websites such as, and that constantly publish articles that are full of hate and racism are not even talked about, and rather a website that tireless helps its community is closed. Benawa is what we need in Afghanistan as soon as possible.

Raheen must go. This is the time when president Karza must say enough to its corrupt minister of education. Afghanistan needs authenticity and charisma based on truth in its media now than anytime ever. Benawa had been a shining star among our young and old. We need Benawa more than we need a corrupt official such as Raheen in Afghanistan. Raheen must go.

Dear all,

as we know that Said Makhdoom Raheen is the gonion supporter of Iran, he allowing Iranism in the Country but not allowing Afghan culture to be spread in the country, when first time he came over to the Ministry he changed the Afghan Culture word to Iranian word (Farhang) after that he instigate the people to change the Pohantoon ( University) to Danishgah,,, which is totaly Iranian word,

so now he stopped bcz Benawa is totaly pashto website and Benawa revealing some hidden secrets of the Iran and Makhdoom Raheen... we Afghan requesting from you people to help to reopen thanks

I still cannot believe this. Benawa accustomed Afghans to the world wide web and now the pioneer is shut down only because of our bullying minister makhdoom raheen. Benawa is our great website and it must be restored by the Afghan government. I hope that at this moment the journalists around the globe stand with us in bringing back Benawa to life.

Dear All

As you are in touch benawa web page has been blocked with special command or decree of Makhdoom Raheen who has been trained by Islamic Republic of Iran and he is their obey and slave, he does all the things which Iran wants. was the one web page which was publishing for Pashtoon tribe and for national benefits there fore Raheen wanted to block this web page and prohibite the development of Afghan culture.
The point which caused to block benawa web page was just publishing a rummerfor 20 minutes that Fahim is past away, the publishment of this rummer is just an excuse for benawa's blocking but the main target is to combat against Afghan culture especially Pashtoon tribe which the majority in Afghanistan.

There were claims of wining the heart and mind of afghan people. How can you win their heart and mind by suffocating them. How can we speak about free speech when we ban media that we don't like or we disagree with. We are talking about free media here, but we don't support it their in Afghanistan. has thousands and thousands if readers, why should it be banned, just because Mr. Rahin doesn't like it? And what about all low standard media in Afghanistan, why nothing happens to them? Everybody knows that the policy is to stop good ones and support those who have no stands. We stand behind and support its talented and wise editor Mr. Khalid Hadi.

I am one student of BA (political science) for me it is very difficult to analyze the negative and positive point of one minister for the welfare of his own nation because one minister must be some patriot but if one minister be fascist, and agent of abroad intelligent systems i.e. (Iran) not hidden but very bright in every way culturally, language and also in political issues not only I will recognize this agent of abroad intelligent networks but every ordinary person of Afghanistan can recognize this fascist, agent, turncoat, traitor, betrayer no one like and want this Minister (Makhdom Rahin) and we want to he become discharge and punishable not only because of the Benawa website but the Supreme court must get the investigation from this agent of outside

Zmari Naqashbandi

Zmari Naqashbandi October 15, 2010 2:13:32 PM ET

Danny, What's going on with this? Any updates?

hi dear reader the benawa site is one of the best

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