The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has condemned the contents of an Afghanistan government document as a thinly veiled attempt to intimidate the media into compliance.
Afghani intelligence officials reportedly summoned executives and editors from more than 10 of Afghanistan’s leading media outlets to a meeting in their Kabul headquarters on June 12, and presented them with a list of directives, including the banning or restricting materials against the “national interest”, signed by the director of the National Security Directive, Amrullah Saleh.
“This is a blatant attempt to influence editorial content and stifle criticism of the government, and the IFJ calls on the government of Afghanistan to retract these directives and establish real protections for press freedom,” IFJ President Christopher Warren said.
The directives also listed types of unwelcome coverage including, “negative propaganda, interviews and reports which are provocative or slanderous and which are against the presence of the international coalition forces and ISAF [in Afghanistan]”.
It also directed media to ban or restrict broadcasting materials which “deteriorate the morale of the public” or “cause security problems”.
The media representatives are reported to have rejected the document as a violation of the constitutional rights of the media.
The Afghan Independent Journalists’ Association (AIJA) and the Committee to Protect Afghani Journalists (CPAJ) issued a joint statement, after a meeting with all major media organisations on June 21, declaring the document illegal, unconstitutional and as having “no importance and credibility for journalists”.
However, the organisations go on to describe the intervention as “threatening for the future of press freedom and democracy in Afghanistan”.
On June 22, President Hamid Karzai gave a speech accepting the directives as important for security and peace in Afghanistan and said the new directives would put an end to propaganda from the Taliban and other groups.
The Afghan Independent Journalists’ Union has expressed grave concerns that it will be much harder to stand up against the restrictions now that the president has publicly expressed his support of the directives.
“This is a clear attempt to intimidate the Afghani press into surrendering their right to free expression,” Warren said.
“The Afghani authorities face an immense task in their efforts to restore order, but threatening the press will only hinder their ultimate goal of a free and democratic society,” Warren said.
“The IFJ strongly urges President Hamid Karzai to reconsider his position on these restrictive directives, and to create secure safeguards for the rights of the Afghani media.”
For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +61 2 9333 0919
The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 110 countries