The pattern in Afghanistan has been one of punishing journalists after they publish or broadcast their criticisms of the government or other power elites. And indeed this happened just this week to Mohammad Nasir Fayya, who hosts a documentary TV show on Ariana TV. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists he was arrested the day after the program was aired.
But what was remarkable is the swift response:
…Afghan television reporter Mohammad Nasir Fayyaz was detained one day after his television station aired a documentary that was critical of some cabinet members and their ministries. The program was cut short while being broadcast, apparently at the demand of the government, according to media reports.
That’s “impressive,” in a Big Brother authoritarian sort of way. According to Reuters:
The political discussion programme, called “The Truth”, was pulled off air half-way through on Sunday after private Ariana TV received a call from the National Directorate of Security (NDS), officials from the broadcaster said.
And after Fayya was released he was re-arrested for speaking to the BBC:
Afghan and foreign media reports say Fayyaz was detained by intelligence officials on Monday and released later that day. The BBC reported today that Fayyaz was detained again today after giving an interview to the BBC. CPJ is trying to confirm the BBC’s report.
And possible ulterior motives beyond the standard free speech quashing? Kabul Press reports:
However, rumors that Ehsan Bayat, president of Ariana TV, is considering running for President of Afghanistan in the 2009 elections may have something to do with this particular action against the independent network which is broadcast throughout Afghanistan and Central Asia, and accessible in Europe and North America via free satellite and Internet.
I hope the international communities put the utmost pressure on the Afghan government in the lead up to the 2009 elections. Having the 2009 presidential elections ruled as unfair by observers due to censorship and media intimidation could have serious consequences for the levels of continued support by the European countries. It’s hard enough to get support for a democratically elected government. Imagine how hard the job of encouraging support for a government that was unfairly elected will be.