Western Powers Encourage Afghan Media Crackdown

Attorney General's Cronies March Again On TV Station

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Tolo TV's newsroom is a trusted source of independent coverage

President Karzai’s leading Western sponsors – the U.S., UK and Canadian governments – continue to turn a blind eye to last Tuesday’s violent raid by armed police of Tolo TV, Afghanistan’s most popular source of independent news.

This tacit approval has encouraged the man who ordered the raid, rogue Attorney General Abdul Jabar Sabet, to organize rallies of government employees to press for the station’s closure. 

On Saturday, athletes from Afghanistan's disabled Olympic team blocked the path of hundreds of pro-Sabet marchers as they made their way to Tolo's studios. From his wheelchair, paralympic team chief Haji Abdul Rahman told Reuters:  "It's good TV. All the time they defend the rights of the people."

The spectacle of disabled Olympians taking to the street to defend freedom of speech is in stark contrast to the indifference displayed by the self-proclaimed champions of democracy in the West. Neither President Bush nor British Prime Minister Tony Blair have released statements regarding Sabet’s violent crackdown, and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper chose the occasion to ridicule his own media critics in Canada.

For more, please see skyreporter’s feature article, CANADA HELPS KARZAI COVER UP TV RAID.

Posted by Arthur  |  April 21, 2007 12:13 p.m.

Have you read this story? Want to send a message to the suits most responsible? Just reply here. We'll forward your comments to Messrs Harper and Blair and Bush. Journalists in Afghanistan need to know we care.

Posted by P.S.Barr  |  April 21, 2007 1:05 p.m.

I have written to my MP and wish also answers from Mr. Harper, our current elected public servant, regarding what is happening to the 'freedom of the press' under the increasingly suspect government of Afghanistan. In particular, I would like to know why we, Canada, offer residency to the Attorney General of Afghanistan, a Mr. Sabet, recently involved with the kidnapping and beating of journalists for Tolo TV. My specific question, and one which must be answered in full to all Canadians, is just what exactly is the true mission of our military men and women in Afghanistan. If we are just aiding and abetting the shrinking administrations of Mr. Blair and Mr. Bush, this must be acknowledged publicly.

Unless addressed, I must presume that our Prime Minister is fully aware of the criminal dealings of the Karzai government, and the backing of this supposed democratic government is just a farce perpetuated for dark reasons withheld from the Canadian public.

Posted by Dan  |  April 21, 2007 2:47 p.m.

I wrote to my MP (the text of which I pasted in "Afghan News Blues" article) and my MP responded 30min later with the following:

"Thanks Dan. I'm disturbed by this report from Kabul. I agree Canada should represent democracy & the rule of law. I will certainly pass along your concerns to our Foreign Affairs Minister."

Interestingly Harper gave a speech later that afternoon about the importance of human rights as he announced funding the new Human Rights museum in Winnipeg. The hypocrisy here is astounding.

Posted by Dan  |  April 21, 2007 2:53 p.m.

Aurthur, could you speak to the accuracy of what Reuters is reporting here on this story: http://in.today.reuters.com/news/newsArticle.aspx?type=world...


Posted by Arthur  |  April 21, 2007 4:28 p.m.

In my experience the Reuters and AP bureaus in Kabul are top notch. All the foreign news agencies in Afghanistan rely on young Afghan media workers in key positions. Most expat and Afghan journos are keen to keep on top of the story and tell it straight and well. That's what irks those members of the Karzai cabinet who are corrupt, inept - or both. They just can't bear the public learning the truth. That's why Tolo TV is beseiged by Sabet. Just disgraceful that some of our Western leaders see their interests, too, served by media repression in Afghanistan. Has anyone seen or heard any denunciations of the raid and marches as yet from Western leaders? Aside from the UN?

Posted by Judy  |  April 21, 2007 4:35 p.m.

Are there photos of this action by the disabled Olympians? I think the western news media would be interested in seeing them. I have a friend who is a Special Olympics medalist, and I know how wonderful and courageous these people are.

Posted by Ian Porter  |  April 21, 2007 7:23 p.m.

Hey Arthur... great site. More people should know about it. How hard would it be to add a link to an e-mail device that enables readers to send the stories to their friends and other interested parties??

Best wishes,

Posted by Arthur  |  April 21, 2007 7:57 p.m.

Ian, we're working on that right now. And Judy, you've got a point. I have an idea we'll be seeing those images very soon - provided President Karzai's Attorney General and Information Minister don't outlaw them first.

Posted by Lisa Scheidegger  |  April 21, 2007 8:24 p.m.

I commend these courgeous persons. Please do make sure that this article and comments get to all the persons in power that can make a difference but choose to ignore this terrible assult on freedom of the press.



Posted by Penny Christensen  |  April 21, 2007 9:45 p.m.

It will be courageous people like these Afghan journalists and athletes who will bring the most meaningful change to their country. I wish with all my heart that their struggle didn't have to be so difficult.

Posted by Bonny Jean  |  April 22, 2007 12:10 a.m.

Arthur, one of the things that I admire about you is the passion that you have for your subject matter and your sense of justice. I commend you on what you are doing to bring this story to the general public.

As a citizen of the United States, I am emailing my representatives in the U.S House and Congress with my objection to their tolerance of the raid on Tolo TV in Afghanistan. Freedom of the Press and Freedom of speech are two rights that the Founding Fathers of my country insisted be guaranteed to every citizen. I am appalled that my government would tolerate such a heinous act.

As far as the Bush Administration goes, they don't care. I believe that any email you forward to them will fall on deaf ears. The Bush Machine's agenda doesn't include listening to its citizens. They're about doing what they want, no matter how we feel about it, or who gets hurt. Their goal is to ensure their own personal wealth and to guarantee that the extremely wealthy people of this country become richer. The middle class of this country are quickly becoming poverty stricken. We have the Bush Machine to thank for that.

I've had to endure two Bush's, the one who usurped the Presidency and his big brother, Jeb, who was Governor of Florida. After he was re-elected as Governor, Jeb was angry at his constituents because he didn't like the two Amendments to the Florida State Constitution that we voted in. In a press conference he told us that he was going to have to figure a way to take away our right to amend the State Constitution. Rumor has it that he spent taxpayer's money to try to fulfill his wish. There were many other things that he did that weren't in the interest of his Florida constituents, but I believe that the above is the most enlightening example.

A former aquaintance of mine works in Laura Bush's office. If you would like to forward my comments, send them to her office. They will know who I am. They'll just laugh at my grammatical errors, spelling errors, etc. and say that I'm uneducated, or that I'm crazy. I'm embarrased to say that I've met two members of the Bush Machine. I know what they're like and they really don't care.

I'll leave that decision to you.

Posted by naijil london 22/04/2207  |  April 22, 2007 6:24 a.m.

i dont know if Mr, Sabet is still fully aware of the nature of his postion.if the TOLO TV is accused for such action it was the job of afghan national security to investigate the matter. i would advise mr Sabet to participate in basic LAW courses rather than intereption of other work.

Posted by John Percy  |  April 22, 2007 6:41 a.m.

Arthur, I think you know from all my previous posts just where I stand on this issue. It is unfortunate that neither Mssrs. Harper, Blair and Bush give a damn about what you or I think on this issue or any other. They are used to these little flareups of outrage and are trained to ride them out. The only time they listen to the people is on election day. Even my MP and his leader are being stonewalled on this issue. Mr. Harper just doesn't want you to know. He just wants our kids over there defending the heroin flow.

And don't think the men and women in our military over there don't know what is going on. THEY DO! (And they greatly resent being used in this way.) But they continue on because they know they bring hope and some small good to the people, not the government, but the people, one by one if they have to.

The one thing we can do here in Canada is concentrate on Sabet and his family, residents of Montreal, living off the avails of criminal activity, and get them all out of MY country, and continue to pressure our MPs to force the drug and corruption issues in Afghanistan out into the open and expose the Western political connections.

Make no mistake, people, that heroin comes here for your kids to consume, and Sabet and his family get fat from that in their Montreal enclave. They are laughing at your weakness. Shipping heroin here is nothing but a terrorist act to subdue and control. It's not always guns and bombs folks...any way they can. And we pay them to do it to us.


Posted by Qais Faqiri  |  April 22, 2007 6:47 a.m.

I am writing from Afghanistan. That night, when the raid occured, I hadn't watched TV. The next day, everyone was talking about that and I had to stay awake very late to follow what had really happened. It was horrible.

As for MR. Sabet, he started a war against corruption - that was a slogan he used to gain public trust. People of Afghanistan, who are tired of corruption thought that he is their hero and he will change something. I was one of those who supported him in his intentions to fight corruption - I was wrong. He is not after fighting corruption, he is trying to defeat his old rivals using the power of attorny general. It is a shame that the one who is supposed to implement the rule of law is breaking law.

TOLO TV has complained to the Afghan high court now, a much more corrupt organisation than the attorny general. The attorny general has also prepared a case for TOLO TV and has submitted to the high court. Now the people are waiting to see if freedom of press and expression really matters to the government and to the court.

We are far far away from the rule of law, and MR Karzai, is only supporting his politics, he doesn't value democracy and freedom. There is a bill under debate in the parliament which will further supress the freedom of the press. In the past five years, freedom of the press was the only achievement of the government of Afghanistan, US, UK, Canada and others who are involved in Afghanistan, and now it is going to be over once the bill is approved. TOLO TV issue is an example of what we say the end of democracy in Afghanistan. Our democracy died before growing up.

Mazar-e Sharif, Northern Afghanistan

Posted by John Percy  |  April 22, 2007 6:50 a.m.

Mr. Harper,

WE KNOW. We know what you don't want us to know and I know that really irks you. Well, anything I can do...;)

It's unfortunate that we have to embarrass these sad, small-minded people into doing the right thing, (hell, do anything really)but if that's the way you want to play, I can go the distance. I have the stamina Stephen. I have the voice, you have the choice.

So why don't you get off your knees, pull up your pants and get onside with your people. You're either with us or against us, as you like to say.

You decide...and then we will.

Posted by Arthur  |  April 22, 2007 9:51 a.m.

Qais and John, thanks for your words and your passion. Basically you're describing the same dysfunction in two governments half a world apart. Messrs. Karzai and Harper believe they're above public opinion, and that they can work in bubbles, without regularly appearing before news conferences - at least those not stacked in their favour.

Qais, Mazar and the people of the North are leaders, too, in Afghanistan. In my experience, the majority of all communities in the country are thirsting for a chance to work together for peace and reconstruction. Those who speak loudest about divisions are usually those who try to take advantage of those differences.

But don't despair. Our people, too, in the West can see through the Karzai administration's designs on Tolo TV and the free media. It's a power play for information control. We in the West have to ask ourselves: will we put up with information control at home, as well as Afghanistan?

Never. For true freedom, it's a life and death issue, and all free people must resist the dead hand of big government.

Posted by John Percy  |  April 22, 2007 10:58 a.m.

It seems to me that if I were aiding and abetting a foreign government that was committing illegal acts and using the profits from those illegal acts to fund the enemy fighting my country's troops, I would be committing an act of treason and labelled a traitor, yet it appears that my government is doing just that on my behalf. I would like them to stop acting on my behalf, thank you.

C'mon people, if you don't stand for something, you'll fall for anything.

Posted by P.S. Barr  |  April 22, 2007 2:36 p.m.

I have sent this story (website included) to the Globe and Mail as well as to La Presse (maybe others can send it to every french language newspaper they can think of). I would suggest that everyone else do the same - let's rattle some cages here and get some responses from our elected public servants! I think a vast number of us are getting a little tired of the way this 'new' government seems to be following the Karl Rove school of "keep the public fat, dumb and happy AND above all else, keep them UNINFORMED".

Posted by Kamran  |  April 24, 2007 6:40 p.m.

Here is the link to the Yahoo Slideshow of Afghanistan and it has photos of the demonstration on behalf of Sabet.
They don't show the atheletes on the wheelchairs, but only the so-called supporters of "rule of law".


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