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Pajhwok pressured, threatened over accurate news coverage

Pajhwok pressured, threatened over accurate news coverage

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Jul 20, 2017 - 20:01

KABULinfo-icon (Pajhwok): Facts are still hidden from the media in Afghanistaninfo-icon and media outlets are pressured and threatened over compiling facts-based stories.

The prevention of the plane carrying first vice-president Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostum from landing in northern Balkh province was the latest example of hiding facts from the media.

Dostum, who faces a court trial on allegations of torturing and sexual assaulting a political rival, left for Turkey about two months ago. However, on July 18, when the first VP was returning to his country, his plane was not allowed to land at the Mazar-i-Sharif Airport.

 A credible source in Balkh province told Pajhwok Afghan News that German forces based in Mazar-i-Sharif Airport turned Dosutm’s plane away.

He also said Balkh Governor Atta Mohammad Noor along with a delegation was awaiting the first VP at the airport to welcome him.

Publishing this information, offices of Dostum and Noor rejected Pajhwok report and accused the news agency of publishing baseless information.

Social media activists loyal to the two leaders also criticized Pajhwok by using abusive words. Pajhwok has evidence to prove its claims.

Bashir Ahmad Tayanj, a spokesman for the first VP, had also rejected the reports that the VP was barred from landing and said Dostum would return to the country in near future.

Balkh governor’s spokesman, Munif Farhad, had confirmed a plane from Turkey was to arrive at the Mazar-I-Sharif Airport, but its course was diverted to Turkmenistan due to technical problems.

NATOinfo-icon’s Resolute Support (RS) mission spokesman Bill Salvin rejected NATO forces had any role in Dostum’s episode. He had said the coalition forces were not involved in the decision to stop the VP plane from landing in Afghanistan.

“This is not a matter belonging to the international forces. It is the job of the Afghan government to control its airspace and make decisions on whether an aircraft can land or not,” he said.

On the other hand, BBC and VoA also quoted sources close to NATO and Dostum that the first VP was onboard the plane that was diverted from Mazari-Sharif Airport.

Salvin had also confirmed to Pajhwok what he told the VOA:  “What happened with General Dostum was that he was denied permission to land in Mazar-i-Sharif.”

“While we were asked to make a phone call to try and get permission for the first vice president to land, we declined to make that phone call because our commander up in the north said that this is not the role of Resolute Support,” Salvin added, without naming the caller.

When Pajhwok asked Salvin about his talks with the VOA on the issue, he said that the VOA report was accurate.

Pajhwok Afghan News Director Danish Karokhel said despite many achievements over the past 16 years, the media still faced many challenges in access to information and facts.

 “Publishing a wrong report damages the credibility of a news outlet itself, a national media would never want to publish a baseless report,” he said.

Pajhwok was under immense pressure after publishing Dostum’s recent report until NATO and other media sources confirmed the issue, Danish said.

“Media is still under pressure from different circles and it still cannot freely publish facts or find access to information on time”, Karokhel said.

Abdul Mueed Hashemi, head of Defense Committee of Afghanistan Journalists, said not only information and facts were kept secret from reporters, but their coverage area was also limited.

Journalists in the past were able to travel outside urban areas for covering incidents, but currently they could not go to remote areas and it was the reason facts remained uncovered, he said.

Hashemi criticized the government for taking no practical steps to enable journalists to find access to information, saying its pledges remained only on papers.

Afghanistan Journalists Center (AFJC) head Ahmad Quraishi said independent news agencies should not come under pressure for publishing facts.

He said Pajhwok Afghan News was under a kind of pressure after publishing Dostum’s landing report.

Based on the media law, no organization including the state could create problems for media, during its operations, he said.

“Figures also cannot press or threaten a media outlet for publishing news reports relied on different sources or threatened their personal interests,” Quraishi added.

He said the AFJC condemned any type of pressure on media and urged all the people not to create problems for it.

A political expert, Javid Ghafor, said President Ashraf Ghani supported access to information law in a verdict and authorities were responsible to cooperate with the media in this regard.

He said the president was committed to the freedom of speech and had several times asked the media to cooperate with him in fighting against corruption and other issues.

Based on the principles of democracy, all should respect freedom of speech and fight against mafia, he added.

mds/ma

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