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Friday, 2 November, 2001, 09:49 GMT
The Taleban: Accommodating hosts
Taleban troops escort journalists in Kandahar
Taleban security was not overbearing
By the BBC's Simon Ingram in Kandahar, Afghanistan

The Taleban have traditionally viewed the Western media, and Western values in general, with suspicion, even hostility.


The limitations on our work have been sometimes considerably less than those one would expect on a press facility tour organised by any Western government

But as the US-led onslaught against their country goes on, Afghanistan's embattled leaders have been forced to adopt a more pragmatic attitude.

The agreement to allow some 30 foreign journalists, including several Westerners, into the country reflected the need to reach out to international public opinion, and to reinforce doubts about the wisdom of US President George Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair's campaign to drive them from power.

There were obvious concerns that the event would turn into a staged propaganda exercise, concerns underlined by the restrictions placed on our movement around Kandahar and the retention by our hosts of our passports throughout the visit.

Yet, in general, the limitations on our work have been no more, and sometimes considerably less, than those one would expect on a press facility tour organised by any Western government.

Unusual freedom

Requests for interviews with senior government and military officials have been granted.

No-one has asked to see the material we filed, or tried to influence our views on what we have been shown. Ordinary people have sometimes felt confident enough to approach us and tell us their opinions, even ones opposed to the government line.

Man mourns his dead in village of Choker Kariz
Journalists were shown bomb damage
Sometimes the handling of our visits to bombed civilian sites has been rushed and clumsy, and the supposed casualty figures have seemed inflated.

But there have been no government translators, or spin doctors conveniently on hand. Nor have the security arrangements been overbearing.

We have not seen anything like the whole story here, but the glimpse we have been allowed has been important nonetheless - an insight into the views and policies of an unusual government, and proof that ordinary Afghans will offer a warm welcome, even to visitors from nations that they are at war with.

See also:

01 Nov 01 | UK Politics
Media war goes to Pakistan
31 Oct 01 | South Asia
Eyewitness: a day in Kandahar
31 Oct 01 | South Asia
Experiencing the bombing
03 Oct 01 | Media reports
Battle for Afghan airwaves
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