MoI must close media outlets with invalid licenses: ATRA

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The Afghanistan Telecom Regularity Authority (ATRA) in a statement called on the Ministry of Interior to ban the operations of media outlets with expired licenses.

ATRA named more than one hundred media organizations who have not paid their taxes across the country.

This comes as the Ministry of Information and Culture (MoIC) also emphasized that the media outlets who have not paid their taxes and are in debt to the government will be held accountable. “The Islamic Emirate will neutrally treat all media organizations based on the format which it has formed for media,” said Abdulhaq Humad, press director of the MoIC.

This comes as media watchdogs have repeatedly voiced concerns over the economic challenges faced by the Afghan media community.

“We urge the Islamic Emirate to make plans to provide economical support to the media,” said Masroor Lutfi, head of the media section at the Afghanistan National Journalists’ Union.

“Unfortunately, this action affects the freedom of speech and media. In the meeting we had with the officials from the Ministry of Information and Culture we urged them to assist the media in this regard,” said Hujatullah Mujadidi, head of Afghan Independent Journalists Association.

When the Islamic Emirate swept into power more than 40 percent of media organizations halted their operations due to economic problems, according to media watchdogs.

These revenues come from a 2.5 percent tax on the net incomes of the telecommunication company sales, and have been transferred to the Ministry of Finance into the “non-optional” budget, said the officials. “We have transferred the money to the special account of the Ministry of Finance; I requested that Ministry of Finance spend the money through the national budget,” said Sayed Mohammad Anwari, advisor to ATRA’s chairman.

“Based on the request of ATRA, and the understanding between the Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Communication and ATRA, the income received from the telecommunication development fund will be transferred to the government account and then it will be spent on certain projects including ATRA’s development projects,” said Ebadullah Darman, deputy spokesman for the Ministry of Finance.

ATRA officials meanwhile confirmed that they were not able to install 160 telecom pylons across the country from the telecommunication development fund. Some lawmakers in Afghanistan’s parliament have said that the transfer of money from the government institutions and banks to the Ministry of Finance is concerning.

This comes after lawmakers in Afghanistan’s parliament on Wednesday (December 6) agreed to form a commission to probe the reports of alleged embezzlement from Code 91 and Code 92 –two emergency funds–as well as the transfer of 15 billion afghanis from the Da Afghanistan Bank (Central Bank of Afghanistan) to the Ministry of Finance, and, finally, the lack of transparency in the collection of 10 percent levies on telecom services.

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