Apr 21, 2007

Press Freedom Under Pressure

Just a few days ago Attorney General Abdul Jabar Sabit ordered the police to arrest a reporter from Tolo TV in Kabul. Sabit told media that he had been misquoted in news about hanging a number of convicts.

The police entered the Tolo TV office where they beated and arrested the three reporters. It was broadcasted live, by and from Tolo TV. The police who were ordered to arrest the journalist, had no official letter or arrest warrant, and were behaving as if they were arresting terrorists and looters.
Since last year, Sabit, a white-bearded man with a kind of embarrassed figure appeared to fight against alcohol and prostitution. Soon, he became famous when he launched a few funny tasks in the name of a revolution against corruption. For a period he was praised in the media, but he was never trusted. He has a dark background of being a member and supporter of Hezb-e-Islami Hekmatiar, a blacklisted terrorist party.

I believe that Abdul Jabar Sabit after his unsuccessful task against corruption became hopeless and nervous. He wanted to become another Afghan national hero like Ahmad Shah Masoud but he couldn’t.
Abdul Jabar Sabit has a faked face in Karzai’s government, in reality he is seen as a drug trafficker. According to General Aminullah Omarkhil, the previous chief of security and customs at Kabul International Airport, Sabit is involved in drugs and smuggling.
Some months ago, when I was working with Okke Ornstein, we interviewed General Omar Khail. He told us he was dismissed from his job after he fired a deputy who was involved in drug trafficking, but who also was a family member of Attorney General Abdul Jabar Sabit.

In Afghanistan, it’s very common that officials use their power and don’t have first or second considerations for law. Just a few weeks ago one of the legislator’s bodyguards beated up the traffic police because they didn’t give priority to the MP’s car to pass the road.
This is a serious warning for press freedom when the threats and assaults come to physical abuse of journalists by government and military officials.
More than 100 journalists gathered last Wednesday in front of the Parliament to condemn this action by Attorney General Sabit and called the government for his dismissal.


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