Afghanistan - Government restricts media coverage on election day

    MONTREAL, Aug. 19 /CNW Telbec/ - The instructions which the government
issued to the media yesterday forbidding them to cover Taliban violence during
tomorrow's presidential election send a very bad signal, Reporters Without
Borders said today.
    "Issued by Hamid Karzai's government on the eve of democratic elections,
this ban is very inopportune even if the possibilities of enforcing it are
very limited," Reporters Without Borders said. "It not only violates media
freedom but also the fundamental right of Afghan citizens to know what is
going on in their country. Worse still, this censorship attempt threatens the
entire democratic process and increases the danger that Taliban attacks
represent for the population."
    The press freedom organisation added: "Journalists already say they are
harassed by the security forces when their try to cover violent incidents, but
now we could see journalists being kept away from voting stations because they
could be the target of terrorist attacks. This runs counter to the principal
of electoral transparency."
    Both the foreign ministry and the interior ministry issued separate
statements yesterday about media coverage of election-day violence.
    The English-language version of the foreign ministry statement
"requested" the media not to cover any violence "in view of the need to ensure
the wide participation of the Afghan people... and prevent any
election-related terroristic violence." But the Dari-language version was much
more authoritative, telling the media that reporting terrorist violence was
"strongly prohibited."
    The interior ministry statement instructed journalists to keep away from
the scene of any attacks.

For further information:

For further information: Katherine Borlongan, secretary general,
Reporters Without Borders, (514) 521-4111, Cell: (514) 258-4188, Fax: (514)

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