Watchdog asks Afghan president to condemn attacks on media
Written by KABUL (AFP)
A leading international media watchdog expressed concern over what it called "a wave of press freedom violations" in Afghanistan, calling on President Hamid Karzai to take action.
A statement issued by Reporters Without Borders, a Paris-based media rights group, said Thursday it was worried about an increase in violence directed against media in recent weeks, including some attacks on journalists on duty.
The statement came after several legislators walked out of parliament Wednesday in protest to demand that privately owned Tolo television be expelled for airing footage of MPs asleep during parliament debates.
The footage was broadcast during a comedy show, with some MPs seen dozing while others debated the war-torn country's politics.
Parliamentarians protested that Tolo -- one of several independent broadcasters to emerge in this young democracy since the extremist Taliban government was toppled in 2001 -- had acted against national and Islamic interests, with one labelling it "infidel".
Relations between the station and some MPs were already sour after the station showed footage of demonstrations against parliamentarian and powerful warlord Abdul Rab Rasoul Sayyaf, whom residents accused of land-grabbing.
Earlier this month a Tolo TV crew was attacked by gunmen during one of these protests and their camera was stolen. Sayyaf then accused the station of organising the protests, a claim it denied.
"The rate of press freedom violations has increased in recent weeks," Reporters Without Borders said in an open letter addressed to Karzai that cited the Sayyaf case and others.
It said it was "worried about a recent wave of press freedom violations in Afghanistan, which are unfortunately not isolated acts but rather the work of influential persons of various political views."
The group urged Karzai to "firmly condemn these attacks and to take all necessary measures to protect journalists and their news organisations."