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RSF FINDS PRESS FREEDOM IN DECLINE UNDER PRESIDENT KARZAI

Press freedom violations have risen sharply in recent weeks in Afghanistan, with the murder of a young Afghan stringer in Kandahar, the Supreme Court's confirmation of a 20-year jail sentence for a blasphemous student, and the closure of "Payman" newspaper as a result of government pressure, says a new report by Reporters Without Borders (RSF).

As the international community debates a strategy for Afghanistan, RSF visited the country in January and found that press freedom under seven years of President Hamid Karzai's rule has deteriorated.

According to RSF, while media diversity can be attributed to the policies of Karzai and the international community, there has been a constant increase in violence against the press and little evidence of a government commitment to combating it. "The Taliban are to blame for much of this violence, but the security forces, local authorities and international military forces are all also guilty of seriously obstructing the work of journalists," RSF said.

RSF fears that pressure on the media could increase in the run-up to the Presidential election scheduled for August.

The report covers the issues of journalists' safety, the fate of women journalists, a proposed new media law, news blackouts in Taliban-dominated regions, and manipulation of information about the war's civilian casualties.

RSF is also posting the text of its exclusive January interview with Parwiz Kambakhsh, the student who received a 20-year jail sentence for distributing "anti-Islamic" literature, on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=my_TXDaCtDQ

To read "We have free speech, but we're not safe and we don't act responsibly," see: http://www.rsf.org/IMG/pdf/Report_Afgha_Eng.pdf

(25 March 2009)

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