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Last Updated: Monday, 4 October, 2004, 05:32 GMT 06:32 UK
'Heavy poll bias' towards Karzai
By Andrew North
BBC correspondent in Kabul

Karzai at opening of Sibirgan-Saripul highway
There have been complaints about Karzai using official ceremonies to boost his campaign
Five days before Afghanistan's presidential election, concerns are growing about media bias in favour of front-runner President Hamid Karzai.

According to figures obtained by the BBC, Mr Karzai has got over 75% of all state TV and radio coverage since the campaign's start in early September.

But there are 17 other candidates contesting the poll, due on 9 October.

Some of them have already complained that the state media in particular is ignoring them.

As Afghanistan's leader, it was inevitable President Karzai would get the most media attention but the figures shown to the BBC appear to support claims that the amount of coverage has given him a disproportionate advantage.

Reprimands

The international monitoring body which provided the figures, but which did not want to be named, has measured the amount of time and space given to all candidates by the Afghan media since the one-month campaign began.

For the first three weeks it found that on state-controlled radio - a key medium here - President Karzai received 85% of all the editorial coverage of candidates.

On state-run television it was almost 75%.

When political advertising slots, which all candidates are guaranteed, are included, things even out a little - although the Afghan leader still receives almost three times as much air time as anyone else.

Afghanistan's election commission has already reprimanded five media outlets for unbalanced coverage earlier in the campaign but it seems to have made little difference.

Concerns about media bias were raised in a report released on Sunday by the United Nations and the main Afghan human rights body.

They also highlighted complaints about President Karzai using official events such as road-opening ceremonies to bolster support for his election bid.




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