Afghanistan bans coverage of Taliban attacks

KABUL Mon Mar 1, 2010 2:08pm EST

1 of 3. An Afghan policeman (L) looks at a damaged police truck after a blast in Kandahar March 1, 2010.

Credit: Reuters/Naadem

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KABUL (Reuters) - Afghanistan on Monday announced a ban on news coverage showing Taliban attacks, saying such images embolden the Islamist militants, who have launched strikes around the country as NATO forces seize their southern strongholds.

The announcement came on a day when the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) fighting the Taliban reported six of its service members had been killed in various attacks.

Journalists will be allowed to film only the aftermath of attacks, when given permission by the National Directorate of Security (NDS) spy agency, the agency said. Journalists who film while attacks are under way will be held and their gear seized.

"Live coverage does not benefit the government, but benefits the enemies of Afghanistan," NDS spokesman Saeed Ansari said. The agency summoned a group of reporters to announce the ban.

The move was denounced by Afghan journalism and rights groups, which said it would deprive the public of vital information about the security situation during attacks.

"Such a decision prevents the public from receiving accurate information on any occurrence," said Abdul Hameed Mubarez head of the Afghan National Media Union, a group set up to protect Afghan journalists, who often complain of harassment by authorities.

"The government should not hide their inabilities by barring media from covering incidents," said Laila Noori, who monitors media issues for Afghanistan Rights Monitor, the country's main liberties watchdog. "People want to know all the facts on the ground whenever security incidents take place."

The Afghan government banned reporting violence for a single day during a presidential election last year, but otherwise had not had formal restrictions on filming security incidents. However, journalists have occasionally been beaten by security forces while filming at the scene of incidents in the past.

SUICIDE BOMBER

Two blasts hours apart on Monday killed at least six people in the southern city of Kandahar, birthplace of the Taliban whose fighters are being targeted in a renewed push by NATO-led troops.

One ISAF member was killed in one of the Kandahar strikes. In various attacks in the country, five other ISAF service members were also killed, the force said.

NATO-led troops launched an offensive last month to drive the Taliban out of their strongholds as part of a plan to hand control of the country to Afghan forces before a planned U.S. troop drawdown that would begin in July 2011.

U.S. General Stanley McChrystal, the ISAF commander, visited Marjah in Helmand province, the town seized by U.S. Marines in the offensive, one of the biggest operations of the eight-year-old war.

He was joined by Afghan Vice President Karim Khalili and Helmand Governor Gulab Mangal, who met hundreds of local residents at a "shura," or traditional council meeting.

"The most important thing is to bring peace and stability to the people in Afghanistan. This is our priority. This is a promise," Khalili told the gathering. But not all were impressed.

"You promised not to use big weapons. Why was my house destroyed?" asked Abdul Kader, a white-bearded village elder.

McChrystal told reporters the goal was to build a government in the area that villagers would embrace: "In the near term, they have to feel represented, they have to feel it's fair."

There could be 200-300 fighters left in the town "who were Taliban two weeks ago," McChrystal said. "Now, whether they still are is a personal choice for each of them. Some may become sleeper cells waiting for someone to tell them what to do. Some may just put the gun away and see what's going to happen."

Fighters have responded with attacks in other parts of the country, using roadside bombs and suicide attacks.

In the past week, the Taliban have carried out four big attacks killing at least 29 people and wounding scores more.

On Friday, two suicide blasts and a two-hour shootout between Afghan forces and the Taliban rocked the capital Kabul, killing 16 people and wounding 37. Among those killed were Indian government employees and an Italian diplomat.

In Monday's first blast, a suicide bomber blew up a car as NATO-led troops passed in convoy on a road several miles from Kandahar airport, a key NATO base. Mohammad Ibrahim, a doctor in a Kandahar hospital, said four civilians were killed.

A NATO helicopter evacuated the wounded, and a bridge close by was badly damaged, a Reuters journalist said.

Hours later, a car packed with explosives blew up outside Kandahar's main police station, killing a police officer and wounding 16 people.

(Additional reporting by Ismail Sameem in Kandahar and a pool reporter traveling with McChrystal in Marjah; writing by Bryson Hull and Peter Graff; Editing by Charles Dick)

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Comments (4)
Robstaman wrote:
Ban the news…. good idea!

These idiots just don’t get it. There is no help for them. They can’t help but create an oppresive society for themselves… they do it over and over, it’s almost like they need to be oppressed. I say let them and let’s get the hell out of there.

Mar 01, 2010 1:11pm EST  --  Report as abuse
magusofdreams wrote:
There will be no trust by the people of Afghanistan if restriction are placed on the news.

Mar 01, 2010 5:18pm EST  --  Report as abuse
Grant_X wrote:
OMG ALL NEWS IS RESTRICTED TO A DEGREE!!! Since coverage of the Taliban DOES embolden their efforts, ban it or at least encourage news sources nto to cover it as much. As it is right now, the news is entertainment…not a source of factual information. That only comes from direct observation from unbiased (and unsponsored) sources…alll of which our news outlets are not.

I am not for censorship but I am for common sense.

Mar 01, 2010 6:43pm EST  --  Report as abuse
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