Search

 

Cablegate: Afghan Media Honor Partial Ban On Taliban Reporting

VZCZCXRO2811
PP RUEHDBU RUEHIK RUEHPW RUEHYG
DE RUEHBUL #1229/01 1021413
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 121413Z APR 07
FM AMEMBASSY KABUL
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 7465
INFO RUCNAFG/AFGHANISTAN COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHZG/NATO EU COLLECTIVE
RUEKJCS/OSD WASHINGTON DC
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC
RHMFIUU/HQ USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 3953
RHEHAAA/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 KABUL 001229

SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR SCA/FO DAS GASTRIGHT, SCA/A, SCA/PPD
STATE PASS TO USAID FOR AID/ANE, AID/DCHA/DG
NSC FOR HARRIMAN
OSD FOR SHIVERS
CENTCOM FOR CG CFC-A, CG CJTF-76 POLAD

SENSITIVE, SIPDIS


E.O. 12958 N/A
TAGS: PREL PGOV PTER PHUM AF
SUBJECT: Afghan Media Honor Partial Ban on Taliban Reporting

REF: KABUL 01191

--------
SUMMARY
--------

1. (U) In response to the April 8, 2007, execution of an Afghan
journalist by the Taliban, many Afghan media outlets are fully or
partially boycotting Taliban-related news for one week. While most
government media already limit their reporting on the Taliban, this
development is especially noteworthy for the independent media, who
have previously asserted their right as a free press to report on
the Taliban (reftel). This development could signal a shift in the
Taliban's previously masterful manipulation of the free press to get
out its messages.

2. (U) The Taliban abducted Afghan journalist and translator Ajmal
Naqshbandi, along with the Italian journalist Daniele Mastrogiacomo
and a driver, last month in Helmand Province. Mastrogiacomo was
released in a controversial deal brokered by the GOA which involved
exchanging five Taliban prisoners for his freedom. The driver was
beheaded last month. Ajmal Naqshbandi, a 23-year old newlywed, was
executed by having his throat slit on April 8, 2007, in Helmand
Province.

3. (U) On April 9, 2007, the day after Ajmal's execution, the
National Union of Afghan Journalists convened a gathering of media
organizations, including the Union of Independent Afghan Reporters
and the Afghan Journalist Defense Committee, along with
representatives from major Afghan print and broadcast media
organizations. The Union called on Afghan media to take measures
protesting Ajmal's death and to enforce a ban on Taliban-related
news. The Union asked Afghan print media to print the front page of
their next day's edition in black and for broadcast media to cease
all broadcasts for one minute at 1500 hours local time on April 9.
In response, about half the major dailies printed half or part of
their first page in black the next day. Broadcast media honored the
Union's request en masse. Almost all major broadcast outlets in
Afghanistan, including both private and government radio and
television, participated in the one minute of silence. Participants
included Tolo TV, Shamshad TV, Ariana TV, and Aina TV (private
nationwide/international stations) and Radio Azadi (Radio Free
Europe, US supported but independent). Government broadcast media
went beyond this: Radio Television Afghanistan ceased broadcasting
for two minutes, while Radio Afghanistan played a song of grief for
ten minutes at the specified time.

4. (U) Once calls for the ban became public, according to the
Afghan Independent Journalist Association (AIJA), several
journalists and media outlets received phone calls threatening their
lives if they participated in the ban.
An AIJA representative also confirmed reports that the Taliban have
said journalists should not use the terms "terrorists" and
"insurgents" to describe the Taliban and that they would abduct and
kill any journalists who did.


----------------------------
BANNING TALIBAN-RELATED NEWS
----------------------------

5. (U) The Union also asked Afghan media to boycott any news
provided by the Taliban or about the Taliban for a period of one
week. (Note: Minister of Information Khoram told Charge and PAO
that the boycott idea originated with him and that in his view it
should last a month to be effective.) The Public Affairs Section
polled government and independent broadcast outlets to determine how
many are participating in the ban and to what degree. Although
several print media outlets are not participating in the ban, our
poll found that most Afghan broadcast outlets are enforcing the ban
to varying degrees. While most government media already do not
cover the Taliban, several independent media outlets are enforcing a
partial ban. Under this partial ban, they will not cover news
provided by any Taliban spokesman or news that would aid the Taliban
for one week; they will, however, report on Taliban-related news
provided by the GOA or from the International Security Assistance
Force (ISAF).

KABUL 00001229 002 OF 002

6. (U) Most noteworthy is the participation of Tolo TV in the
partial ban. Officials from Tolo, the country's leading independent
television station, state that they will enforce the partial ban for
one week from Monday, April 9, to Monday, April 16, 2007. This is a
significant departure for Tolo TV, which has been painted by the GoA
as its adversary due to Tolo's regular coverage of Taliban-related
news, including broadcast of statements by purported Taliban
spokesmen. In fact, Tolo TV refrained from reporting an April 10
attack carried out by Taliban militants in Zabul Province during
which several Afghan National Army soldiers were killed.

7. (U) Ariana TV and Shamshad TV, also nationally popular
independent stations, have stopped reporting Taliban-related news as
well. Officials from both said they wish to show solidarity with
the Afghanistan National Journalist Union and other media
organizations in Afghanistan.

-----------
PRINT MEDIA
-----------

8. (U) Pajhwok, Afghanistan's only independent nationwide news wire
service, is honoring the ban and has not reported on the Taliban
since Monday, April 9. The government news wire, Bakhtar
Information Agency (BIA), is also enforcing a partial ban, stating
that if there is a report about the Taliban which would demonstrate
the Taliban's power or would boost their morale it won't be
reported, but if a report will support the Afghan government, it
will be reported. Since BIA feeds news to government papers such
as Anis and Hewad, these publications are, in essence, also
enforcing the partial ban. Weesa Daily (independent) is not
participating in the ban on Taliban-related reporting. Cheragh
Daily has long honored the GoA's request to not report on the
Taliban.

------------------------------
INTERNATIONAL PRESS COMMUNITY
------------------------------

9. (U) Although the international press community in Afghanistan
was not asked to participate in the Afghan media ban of
Taliban-related news, it has lent its support to the Afghan media
community following the killing of Ajmal Naqshbandi. Numerous
international media organizations, including AP, signed a petition
condemning the killing. AP and AFP sent representatives to the
tribute organized in Zar Nigar Park for Ajmal on Tuesday, April 10,
where some five hundred citizens and representatives of social and
journalism organizations joined to honor their slain colleague.

-------
COMMENT
-------

10. (U) Amidst an environment of tension between the free Afghan
press and the GoA (reftel), many members of the Afghan media have
decided voluntarily, albeit temporarily, to suspend their right to
free speech to make a statement against the Taliban. By executing a
young, defenseless Afghan journalist, the Taliban has driven the
Afghan media community towards solidarity with the GoA.
Traditionally, the Taliban has masterfully manipulated the free
press to get its messages out, and in spite of GoA criticism, much
of the Afghan press has exerted its right to freedom of speech by
continuing to report on the Taliban. In this instance, however, the
Taliban may have miscalculated or underestimated the outrage the
Afghan media community would feel over the killing of one of its
own. The partial ban on Taliban reporting occurring this week in
Afghanistan shows that the Afghan media are willing to sacrifice an
ideal they believe in to protest a deplorable act. What remains to
be seen is whether the Afghan media might extend its ban on Taliban
coverage in response to other Taliban atrocities committed against
non-journalists. That can only be evaluated after the ban's
conclusion on Monday, April 16.

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
World Headlines

 

COP24: Rapid Action Urged At Climate Change Conference

Following a year of devastating climate disasters around the globe, from California to Kerala, and Tonga to Japan, the annual UN Climate Change Conference opens with the goal of finalising the implementation guidelines for the Paris Climate Change Agreement. More>>

ALSO:

New Report: Refugees In PNG Being Pushed To The Brink

Refugee Council of Australia and Amnesty International paint a stark picture of a traumatised refugee population hit hard by Australia's recent healthcare and counselling service cuts, as well as continued threats to their safety. More>>

ALSO:

Jamal Khashoggi: UK, France, Germany Join Calls For Credible Investigation

Germany, the United Kingdom and France share the grave concern expressed by others including HRVP Mogherini and UNSG Guterres, and are treating this incident with the utmost seriousness. More>>

ALSO:

MSF Not Wanted: Nauru Government Shows Continued Callousness

The Nauruan Government’s decision to ask Doctors Without Borders to immediately leave shows continued callousness towards asylum seekers desperately seeking a safe place to call home, Green MP Golriz Ghahraman said today. More>>

ALSO: