Afghan gouvernment shuts out media

Hamid Karzai bans coverage of Taliban attacks

by Chris Pike

The Afghan government announced last week that it will be banning live media coverage of militant attacks from now on.

According to both the National Post and the New York Times, the reason given by the Afghan government for the ban is that the media causes a security risk through these live broadcasts. The coverage allows militants to assess how security deals with attacks and uses this information to plan out other attacks more effectively in the future. The government also said this ban is to protect reporters from gunfire and bombs.

“While journalists are going to the scene of ongoing attacks, they endanger themselves and also they help inform the enemy with their live broadcasts or reporting of the progress of (police) operations,” Hakim Ashir, the head of the Government Media and Information Centre, told the National Post.

According to the BBC and the Globe and Mail many international journalists have criticized this move by the Afghan government.

“We believe broad, pre-emptive bans on coverage are inconsistent with a democratic society,” John Daniszewski, Associated Press senior managing editor for international news, said to the Globe and Mail . “Experience shows there are many ways to cover important breaking stories without interfering with police or security operations.”

Domestic news sources are also going to be under the ban and are just as unhappy about it

“We see this as direct censorship. This is prevention of reporting and contravenes the constitution,” Rahimullah Samandar, the head of Afghanistan’s Independent Journalists’ Association said to the BBC.

Many have even gone as far as to declare the ban as unconstitutional.

“Any limitation on freedom of speech and freedom for journalists contravenes the Afghan Constitution and the media law,” Mohammad Abdullah, a legal adviser to Tolo TV, a popular independent Afghan television channel said to the New York Times.

However, there is another side to this ban. According to the New York Times, the live coverage of the terrorist attacks has given the opponents of Afghani President Hamid Karzai a large opportunity to declare his government a failure.

The Afghan government has tried to implement a media ban similar to this one in August of 2009.

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