Afghanistan and freedom of expression

With Canadian soldiers dying in Afghanistan, with Canadian money funding projects, what obligations does Canada — and do Canadian journalists — have to prevent abuse of authority by the government we help prop up?

This story reveals the travesty that is Afghanistan’s “democracy.” How can a country claim to be democratic when it uses its laws to slaughter young journalism students who ask questions? Assuming that the right of freedom of expression is the one area where journalists cannot and should not be “objective,” because the survival of journalism depends on it, how can Canadian journalists sit by and passively watch?

Excerpt from a BBC story, Afghan student in torture claim:

“An Afghan student journalist who was sentenced to death for blasphemy has told an appeals court that he confessed after being tortured.

Sayed Parwez Kambakhsh was convicted in January of insulting Islam.

But at the appeals court in Kabul the 24-year-old insisted he was innocent of all the charges. He said he was tortured into confessing that he had disrupted university classes by asking questions about women’s rights under Islam. He was also convicted of distributing an article on the same subject, and adding three additional paragraphs.

He told the crowded, hour-long appeal hearing: “As a Muslim … I never allow myself to do such a thing. These are totally lies.”

Kambakhsh’s death sentence was handed down during a closed-door trial, which drew condemnation from parts of the international community. He was studying journalism at Balkh University in the northern Afghan city of Mazar-i-Sharif, and writing for local newspapers, when he was arrested in October.