Media under political and economic pressure
By Bob Dietz/CPJ Asia Program Coordinator
Danish Karokhel, who won a CPJ International Press Freedom Award in 2008, messaged this morning concerned that the news agency he runs, Pajhwok Afghan News, and some other media outlets have been referred to the Attorney General's Office by the Ministry of Information and Culture for reporting on an alleged bribery scandal involving a member of Parliament. The action was taken by the ministry's Media Monitoring Commission, and could lead to criminal charges.
The May 24 story that angered the ministry revolved around unnamed government officials claiming that Iran paid large bribes to Wolesi Jirga member Hazrat Ali, encouraging him to organize parliamentary opposition to approval of the strategic cooperation agreement between Afghanistan and the United States. The Wolesi Jirga (Assembly of the People) is the lower house of Afghanistan's Parliament. On May 25, the Afghan-U.S. pact was approved, and on May 26, Pajhwok ran Ali's robust denial of accepting the Iranian money, which Pajhwok and other media said ran to $25 million. Pajhwok had already run the Iranian Embassy's denial of the accusation in its earlier item.