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Afghanistan May Ease Ban On News Coverage Of Attacks

Afghan presidential spokesman Wahid Omar said the new regulations wouldn't amount to "censorship."
(RFE/RL) -- Afghanistan today said it would clarify newly announced restrictions on media coverage of insurgent attacks.

The Afghan National Directorate of Security intelligence agency on March 1 summoned journalists to its headquarters and threatened to arrest anyone filming while attacks are under way.

A spokesman for President Hamid Karzai, Wahid Omar, then said today that the new guidelines had not yet been drawn up, and promised they would not amount to "censorship."

Omar said the goal would be to prevent insurgents from using live media reports to get tactical information, and to keep journalists themselves out of danger at the scene of violence.

Taliban fighters have recently staged several major attacks, including one on February 26 in which suicide bombers struck hotels and battled police in downtown Kabul. Sixteen people were killed.

Afghan Journalists Association director Rahimullha Samandar, told RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan in Kabul today that Afghan journalists oppose the new measure.

"Our reaction to this [decision] is that according to Afghan laws, the government can never directly censor news coverage," Samandar said. "All of us are against this direct censorship by the government. This decision shows nothing but the inability of the government."

U.S. Embassy spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said Washington was monitoring the issue and would raise it with Kabul. "The United States supports freedom of the press and we will discuss this issue with the government of Afghanistan," Hayden said.

RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan contributed to this report. With agency reports