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US worry over Afghan media curbs

Site of explosion in Kabul, 26 February
The government says live coverage gives militants a tactical advantage

The United States' envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan has expressed concern over new restrictions on media reporting imposed by the Afghan government.

Richard Holbrooke said the US supported a free press and would raise the new measures with the Afghan government.

Kabul banned live media coverage of militant assaults saying they could help militants during attacks.

The ban came days after Taliban militants killed 17 people in a suicide attack in the centre of Kabul.

The government announced a similar ban for election day in August 2009.

FROM BBC WORLD SERVICE

This indefinite ban applies to both domestic and international news.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and other US officials "are concerned and will make our support of free access by the press clear to the government", news agency AFP quoted Mr Holbrooke as saying.

"We don't like restrictions on the press. My whole career has been devoted to supporting that," he said.

Journalists have criticised the move saying it amounts to "censorship".

"We see this as direct censorship. This is prevention of reporting and contravenes the constitution," said Rahimullah Samandar, the head of Afghanistan's Independent Journalists' Association.

But a spokesman for Afghanistan's intelligence service, the National Directorate of Security, said the ban would be applied under Article 7 of Afghanistan's national security law.

Journalists would only be allowed to film the aftermath of attacks.

Details of how it would work and how the authorities plan to enforce the ban are not yet clear.



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