March 2nd, 2010
07:31 AM ET

Afghanistan bans media from covering militant attacks live

 KABUL, Afghanistan - The Afghan government has banned news organizations from covering militant attacks while they are occurring, saying media outlets unknowingly help the Taliban through such broadcasts.  The National Directorate of Security issued the ban Monday. It prevents news organizations from reporting from the site of an attack until security forces secure the area and issue a green light. 

The ban will prevent a repeat of incidents such as Friday's deadly blasts in the Afghan capital (seen in photo above), which killed at least 17 people.  The attack took place near Safi Landmark Hotel in the neighborhood of Shahr-E-Naw. It started with a suicide car bomb and suicide bombers with explosive-laden vests, followed by a second large explosion. 

News crews rolled their cameras as security forces responded.  The government says such live coverage helps the Taliban by showing how the government coordinates its response. 

Rights groups see the ban as a gradual encroachment on openness by President Hamid Karzai's administration.  

"You have to link it to the bigger issue in Afghanistan, and that is the Karzai government's increasingly unilateral decisions," said Ajmal Samadi of the non-governmental Afghanistan Rights Monitor. "A number of issues in the
past few days are of concern to human rights activists."

Samadi pointed to a bill that would provide immunity from prosecution for all crimes committed during the Afghan conflict in exchange for pledges of support from the participants. 

Most Afghans want to see the major transgressors prosecuted, rights groups say. 

Karzai also issued a decree that gives him the authority to appoint members to the electoral complaint committee, which was once an independent entity. 

The committee is charged with investigating claims of fraud during the elections. Making its members report to Karzai compromises its objectivity, rights organizations say.  
- CNN's Matiullah Mati and Saeed Ahmed contributed to this report.

Filed under: Kabul attacks • Karzai • Life and Culture • Taliban
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