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TV Presenter Apologizes To Afghan Warlords -- At Gunpoint

Afghan-American TV presenter Nabil Miskinyar
Afghan-American TV presenter Nabil Miskinyar
KABUL -- Nabil Miskinyar, a 60-something journalist, has numerous television appearances under his belt. But none like the one he experienced in Afghanistan last week.

The Afghan-American journalist regularly appears on his California-based Ariana Afghanistan Television and comments on the war-torn country's current affairs and political past.

His hard-hitting monologues -- presented in Dari and often directed at some of the most powerful political figures in Afghanistan today -- attract a modest audience both among the Afghan diaspora and inside the country itself.

During a recent trip to Kabul, it was made clear that Miskinyar's approach has its detractors as well.

Miskinyar claims that on September 12 he was picked up for lunch by four men, including Najibullah Kabuli, owner of the private Emrooz Television channel. The two had set up the appointment through a common friend who had proposed cooperation between their fledgling stations.

Miskinyar says that after a lavish lunch, he was forced at gunpoint to conduct an interview with Emrooz telejournalist Fahim Kohdamani.

"He told me that 'on your television shows, you always criticize and say bad things about the leaders of the national resistance,'" Miskinyar says, ticking down a list of the so-called mujahedin who battled Afghanistan's former Soviet occupiers. "By this, he meant Burhanuddin Rabbani, Ahmad Shah Masud, Abdul Rad Rasul Sayyaf, Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, Ahmed Zia Massud, Ahmad Wali Masud, and Mohammad Qasim Fahim. What I said in the interview was that 'if I did not say the right things, or if I have attributed false things to these leaders of the resistance, then I apologize to the Afghan people.'"

Scare Tactics

In a press statement on September 16, Miskinyar claims that he was asked to confess that that he was an American agent, a supporter of Pakistan, and anti-Iranian.

He says he had two guns pointed at him at all times.

"Kohdamani told me that I would die and my entire family would be killed if I did not respond as they demanded," Miskinyar writes. "Under intense pressure and in fear of my life, I told them what they wanted me to say while they videotaped an 'interview.'"

Miskinyar says that he was held for seven hours after the interview and was then blindfolded and left on a Kabul street. "Fortunately, I was able to find my way back to my family and leave the country," his statement says.

Allegation Rejected

In the interview, Maskinyar is shown being aggressively questioned about his political views and the opinions expressed during his television shows.

Najibullah Kabuli, the owner of Emrooz television, rejects Miskinyar's allegations. He counters that he himself is a fierce critic of Iran's clerical regime, so it would make no sense for him to force Miskinyar to say good things about the Iranian government.

"I think he arrived here to get money from the leaders that he used to insult [on his TV shows]," Kabuli says. "He thought that he would show to them that he will keep silent in future in return for their payments. And that's why he chose my television for a confessional interview. But afterward he saw that the leaders were not impressed and didn't give him any money. So he accused me to get something or to get fame. I think this speaks about his motives."

written by Abubakar Siddique in Prague based on reporting in Kabul by RFE/RL Radio Free Afghanistan correspondents Mustafa Sarwar and Hameed Mohmand
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