25 April 2011


Government must respect right to report news, says RSF

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(RSF/IFEX) - 20 April 2011 - Reporters Without Borders condemns all the methods that the Afghan security services use to obstruct journalists trying to cover suicide attacks. In the latest case, the 18 April 2011 suicide attack on the defence ministry in Kabul, journalists from most media were denied entry into the building.

"We understand that, in such serious circumstances, protecting civilians must be the priority for the security forces," Reporters Without Borders said. "But news coverage is also a priority and must be respected. Without media coverage, there is a real risk that the facts will be dressed up and the public will be misinformed in a way that suits the Afghan government and its allies. Without proper reporting, it will not be possible to rally the public's support for the fight against terrorism."

In the 18 April incident, a man wearing an Afghan army officer's uniform over an explosive vest managed to get up to the second floor of the downtown Kabul building that houses the office of the defence minister, Gen. Abdul Rahim Wardak, and is just a few metres from the presidential palace. Using a rifle, the intruder shot two soldiers dead and injured nine other people. He was himself then shot dead before he could trigger the explosives. According to the Afghan media, the minister was not in his office at the time.

More than 100 journalists went to the defence ministry in an attempt to cover the immediate aftermath of the attack but those in charge of security kept almost all of them at a distance. Only crews from a few foreign and Afghan TV stations were allowed to visit the scene of the shooting. Several journalists were beaten by guards and were mistreated by soldiers and policemen when they protested.

This is not the first time that the Afghan government has tried to censor news coverage of Taliban activity. In March 2010, the interior ministry wanted to ban all live media coverage of Taliban attacks on the grounds that the information provided by journalists could be used by the insurgents to coordinate their actions. The ban has still not been put into effect.

Following a recent wave of deadly Taliban attacks, especially in Kabul, the government is stepping up efforts to conceal its weaknesses and the ability of the insurgents to strike in the very heart of the capital.


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