Afghanistan: Candidates Must Stop Intimidation of Journalists

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Afghanistan: Candidates Must Stop Intimidation of Journalists

WASHINGTON - Afghan President Hamid Karzai and his
chief election rival, Abdullah Abdullah, must stop their supporters
intimidating journalists and monitors reporting on allegations of fraud
during the country’s recent presidential elections, Amnesty
International said today.

Since the 20 August polls, Amnesty International has received
evidence of at least 20 cases of intimidation, harassment and violence
against Afghan journalists and media organizations as they reported on
suspected cases of electoral fraud or irregularities.

Amnesty International has also received reports of intimidation and
harassment against electoral workers and election monitors by Afghan
government officials and affiliates of powerful candidates.

“Millions of Afghan women and men cast their votes on 20 August
despite the serious insecurity and the threats by the Taleban and armed
groups, choosing to express their will through ballots and hoping for a
better future,” said Sam Zarifi, Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific
director.

“As uncertainty around the outcome continues, harassment of
journalists and monitors further erodes the credibility and legitimacy
of the election and undermines the people’s votes.”

Amnesty International has received credible reports of cases of
intimidation against journalists particularly in Kabul, Herat, Baghlan,
Kapisa, Mazar-e- Sharif and Parwan provinces.

Rahimullah Samander, head of the Afghanistan Independent
Journalists’ Association told Amnesty International that journalists
who report on electoral irregularities and fraud have been accused of
favouring rival candidates by supporters of Karzai and Abdullah.

“All candidates, and in particular the top contenders, Karzai and
Abdullah, have to show that they are committed to following Afghan law
and basic human rights such as the media’s freedom to report,” Zarifi
said.
 
An Afghan activist who monitored the presidential elections and
post-electoral processes, including ballot counting, told Amnesty
International a cabinet minister had threatened him on the telephone on
several occasions after he spoke to local media about electoral fraud
and voting irregularities by Karzai supporters.

“The minister threatened to kill me if I dare to criticize the
president for fraud next time,” the activist told Amnesty
International. 

Amnesty International calls on the Afghan government to carry out
independent investigation on the cases of intimidation and harassment
of the journalists, electoral workers and observers and ensure that
their freedom to express information is not violated.

“A key role for the media is to act as a watchdog on the government,
particularly at a time when there is great uncertainty and allegations
of fraud swirling about the presidential elections,” Zarifi said.

“Unless drastic steps are taken to overcome the problems seem in
this election, the upcoming parliamentary elections are likely to be
worse,” Zarifi said.

Background

The preliminary results from the Afghanistan’s recent presidential
elections, held on 20 August, show incumbent president Hamid Karzai
winning 54.6 percent of the vote.

However, a series of allegations of voting fraud and ballot stuffing
particularly raised against President Karzai have led to an electoral
crisis in the country and criticism of countries providing security and
financial support for the election process.
.

The Election Complaints Commission has ordered 10% of the votes to be recounted.

There have also been cases of intimidation against journalists
during the electoral campaign as well as on the day of the election by
the presidential candidates.

There were 15 serious cases of intimidation across the provinces and
19 cases of serious violence against journalists were documented in the
capital Kabul committed by the presidential candidates and the
government
officials.

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