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Last Updated: Monday, 19 June 2006, 18:19 GMT 19:19 UK
Anger over curbs on Afghan press
By Alastair Leithead
BBC News, Kabul

People at newspaper stall in Afghanistan
The list only applied to Afghan journalists
Afghanistan's intelligence services have angered Afghan journalists by distributing a list of restrictions on their reporting.

The restrictions include directives not to represent the Afghan armed forces as weak or criticise the US-led coalition.

Many in the media see the move, which does not apply to foreign reporters, as an attempt to curb press freedom.

The government denied it had issued any restrictions, merely a request for media not to "glorify terrorism".

Summoned

The two-page document lays out an extraordinary list of demands for the Afghan media.

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Criticism of the US-led coalition, or Nato mission, is banned as is interviewing what it calls terrorist commanders, or even filming or photographing them.

Representing the armed forces as weak is banned, as is publishing interviews against the government's foreign policy.

Broadcasters have also been told not to put news of militant activities, such as suicide or roadside bombings, as the lead story on bulletins.

This request is entirely consistent with the principles of the freedoms of speech and press enshrined in the constitution
Office of the president's spokesman

The letter acquired by the BBC is marked not to be distributed or copied and was delivered by the intelligence services in Afghanistan to national journalists after they were summoned to a meeting.

It is not known at what level it was sanctioned.

However, the office of the spokesman of President Hamid Karzai issued a statement rejecting reports the government had issued instructions to local media restricting their activities.

It said it had merely asked media "to refrain from glorifying terrorism or giving terrorists a platform".

"This request is entirely consistent with the principles of the freedoms of speech and press enshrined in the constitution," it said.

But there has been a strong reaction from the media here, with many people seeing this as a way of intimidating, or trying to restrict the free press which has thrived and expanded in Afghanistan following the overthrow of the Taleban.

There are many new television and radio stations that have been quite critical of the administration.

One news agency chief said 95% of his stories would be banned if these rules and regulations became law.


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