Afghanistan orders curbs on media's use of drones

KABUL (Reuters) - In a country known for the widespread use of military unmanned aircraft, the Afghan government on Wednesday moved to restrict the use of camera drones by media companies.

The Interior Ministry announced the policy, citing national security.

“The Interior Ministry, with all respect it has to media, respectfully announces to all national and international media that they should not use such cameras that have broad coverage and can create problems for security institutions,” the ministry said in a statement.

Afghanistan’s National Security Council issued the order, the statement said.

The restrictions will not apply to the whole country, but only to sensitive areas like government and military facilities, according to an official at the Ministry of Information and Culture who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The official cited a recent incident in which a local TV news company flew a small drone over the presidential palace in Kabul while covering a large protest.

Many other countries have enacted similar restrictions as they grapple with how to regulate the expanding use of commercial and private remote-controlled aircraft.

Still, the news raised some eyebrows in a country rife with unmanned U.S. military aircraft.

“How about you banning killer drones instead?” wrote one Afghan user on Twitter.

Since the American-led military campaign began in Afghanistan in 2001, foreign militaries have used hundreds of unmanned aircraft to conduct surveillance and air strikes.

Nearly 15 years after a drone first fired missiles in combat, the U.S. military program has expanded far beyond specific strikes to become an everyday part of the war machine.

Unmanned aircraft now log up to eight times as many flight hours as the few remaining manned aircraft in Afghanistan.

Earlier this year, the Afghan military received its first surveillance drones, which have been deployed in restive Helmand province.

Writing by Josh Smith; Editing by Nick Macfie