Row over Afghan TV station raid

BBC News – Staff at an Afghan television station in the capital, Kabul, have protested against a raid by armed police who allegedly assaulted workers there.

Dozens of journalists and Members of Parliament demonstrated outside parliament against the raid.

They accused President Hamid Karzai of smothering freedom of speech during Tuesday’s raid at Tolo TV.

MP and former journalist Shukria Barakzai accused the authorities of having no respect for the law.

‘Over-reaction’

“It’s a small example for journalists in Afghanistan. We face lots of violence,” he told the rally outside parliament.

Staff at Tolo say that about 50 armed police entered its offices, assaulted staff and arrested three people who were taken to the attorney general’s office.

He had complained earlier about an item broadcast in one of the station’s news programmes which he said misrepresented a speech he made in parliament.

The New York based Committee to Protect Journalists described the raid as an “over-reaction”, and an indication that Kabul was moving quickly away from its pledge of press freedom.

The BBC’s Pam O’Toole says that the raid also says a lot about the difficult relationship between the government and media in Afghanistan.

Our correspondent says that Tolo is regarded as one of the stations trying to test the boundaries of what is acceptable broadcasting.

Afghanistan has hundreds of newspapers and magazines, more than 50 FM radio stations and a number of private TV stations.

But journalists’ associations accuse the government of trying to restrict press freedom.

They say journalists across the country have been arrested, beaten, intimidated and threatened by government officials, local powerbrokers, or Taleban-led insurgents.

‘Irresponsible reporting’

“The police beat us with the butts of AK-47s, with the barrels of AK-47s, and they punched us and kicked us before we were arrested,” said Tolo journalist Siddiq Ahmadzada.

Last year there was a major row after national media organisations publicised what they said was a list of regulations given to them by the intelligence service aimed at restricting what they could report.

The government later denied producing any such regulations.

Government officials have accused some media outlets of inaccurate or irresponsible reporting in a country where the free press is still in its infancy and libel laws are not well enforced.

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