The Independent Journalist Association of Afghanistan vowed to defy the government’s attempt to strictly censor media coverage during tomorrow’s presidential election, though officials insist the measure is necessary for “national security.”
Yesterday’s announcement was released in several languages, and appeared to differ significantly depending on its targeted audience. The English language version ‘requested’ that media not cover attacks, though it threatened to expel foreign reporters who did so. The Arabic and Dari language versions changed the request to a declaration that it was “strictly forbidden.”
State Department and White House officials expressed ‘concern’ over the move, saying they believed a free press was crucial to a free society. On the other hand, the US embassy in Afghanistan conceded that the move was the right of the sovereign US-backed government.
Recent actions by the Afghan police suggest the attempt to censor the media is not limited to tomorrow’s election, nor to violence related to the election. In today’s robbery of a Kabul bank, AP reporters say they were threatened by Afghan police, who accused them of “helping the enemy” by reporting on the robbery. Other reporters say they were beaten by police in recent days while attempting to cover attacks.