Ahmadzai reserves travel ban on US journalist
KABUL (Pajhwok): Vowing to defend press freedom, President Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai has allowed a New York Times reporter to return to Afghanistan. The reporter has been expelled from the country and accused of having links to spy agencies.
Matthew Rosenberg was ordered to leave the country in August after writing an article saying ministers and officials were threatening to seize power in Kabul to end a deadlock over the fraud-tainted presidential election result.
Rosenberg, 40, a three-year veteran of The Times’s Kabul bureau, was summoned to the attorney general’s office about the article published in the newspaper.
The attorney general said the article was “contrary to the national interests, security and stability of Afghanistan” and ordered Rosenberg to leave the country within 24 hours.
“It appears that he has links with intelligence and spy agencies,” the expulsion order said.
Senior prosecutor Gen Sayed Noorullah Sadat had asked the reporter to identify anonymous government sources quoted in the article, which he declined to do.
Rosenberg objected to General Sadat’s insistence that he sign a statement without a lawyer present. After the unidentified higher official consented, Rosenberg was allowed to leave on the condition that he return with a lawyer the next day. No mention of the travel ban was made at the time.
Later, however, a spokesman for the attorney general’s office, Baseer Azizi, confirmed that a travel ban was in effect “until this issue over this article is resolved.” He also said the attorney general would demand that Rosenberg divulge his sources for the article.
But Ghani, who eventually emerged as new president after a three-month political crisis, said the ban had been reversed.
“As promised, I’ve asked our Attorney General to end the ban on US journalist and grant him permission to (return to Afghanistan). We respect the freedom of press,” Ghani said on his official Twitter feed.
Rosenberg’s expulsion was the first of a journalist since the Taliban regime was ousted in 2001, raising fears for press freedom in Afghanistan after 13 years of international aid funding and development.
The United States embassy issued a sharp criticism of the expulsion, describing it as “unjustified and based on unfounded allegations”.
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