By Josie Cox
What’s a journalist supposed to do with a successful author who declares that his next book about Pope Benedict will “go down in history” — but refuses to give any details of what’s in it?
An Afghan journalist, sentenced to death for blasphemy, reduced to 20 years’ jail on appeal, has been set free and is living in exile in an undisclosed country, a media watchdog has said. Perwiz Kambakhsh, 24, a reporter with the Afghan Jahan-e Now daily, was sentenced to death in January 2008 by a court in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif.
The death of Russian Orthodox Patriach Alexiy II and talk about his possible successor got Aleksandras Budrys, a correspondent in our Moscow bureau, to reminiscing about how he covered Alexiy’s election in 1990 for the official news agency TASS. Here’s his account of reporting on religion near the end of communism in Russia:
The sentencing of an Afghan journalist to 20 years in jail for distributing an Internet article that said the Prophet Mohammad had ignored the rights of women has raised questions about freedom of expression and possibly the rising influence of hardline Islamists in war-ravaged Afghanistan. But is there politics at play here as well?
Sister Cecilia Gaudette is an American Catholic nun who is spunky despite her 106 years. She was born in Manchester, New Hampshire on March 25, 1902 — when Republican Teddy Roosevelt was president — and has been living (until recently) in obscurity in a convent in Rome. The last time she voted was in 1952, for Dwight Eisenhower, another Republican. Now she is voting for Barack Obama. Read the Reuters story here and watch the CBS video to find out why.
The more outside attention Turkey’s project to purge Islam’s hadith (sayings of Prophet Mohammad) of sexism and superstition gets, the more the religious authorities insist it is being misunderstood. Ali Bardakoglu, chairman of the government’s Religious Affairs Directorate, insisted this was not a reform of Islam when the project was presented as just that in western media early this year. His deputy Mehmet Görmez gave us a long interview in March to explain that Turkey was updating its way of understanding the hadith, but not the religion itself. They explain this all in detail, but the message still doesn’t seem to come out that way at the other end.
The blasphemy case against Afghan journalist Sayed Perwiz Kambakhsh, 23, is back in the news. Kambakhsh appeared at an appeal hearing in Kabul on Sunday, pleaded innocent and was given a week to present his defence statement against the primary provincial court’s ruling and to find a defence lawyer. Our report from Kabul says he flatly denied charges he had insulted Islam and the Koran and had distributed an article which said Prophet Mohammad had ignored the rights of women.
Just a quick update on a case we’ve talked about here before: Sayed Perwiz Kambakhsh, the 23-year-old Afghan journalist sentenced to death for blasphemy and other crimes against Islam, has been moved to Kabul for his appeal against that verdict. Reporters without Borders (RsF) says he was moved on March 27.