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Afghan govt threatens to expel foreign journalists

world Updated: Aug 19, 2009 18:52 IST
Afghan government

The Afghan government on Wednesday threatened to expel foreign journalists who violate a ban on reporting attacks during elections and said it will shut down any local media outlet that does the same.

The order was issued by the national security council, which brings together the country's top security agencies, and was based on national interest, Aforeign ministry spokesman hmad Zahir Faqiri told AFP.

The media was free to cover polling on Thursday but reports on violence or attacks were "forbidden", he said. "This is an extraordinary situation and all the media must obey the decision."

If the ban is violated, "local agencies will be closed and international journalists will be kicked out," he said. "In every democratic country there are extraordinary situations sometimes that the government, for the sake of national interest and the security of citizens, they have to make decisions," he said.

The government has come under severe criticism for attempting to ban media coverage of escalating Taliban violence, fearing that it would deter people from voting in Thursday's elections.

Fresh bloodshed hit Kabul on Wednesday as Taliban gunmen stormed a bank building and fought pitched battles with police, making good on promises to instil fear among Afghans ahead of the vote.

Afghan and international journalists, who have flooded into Afghanistan to cover the vote, have reported being harassed and even beaten by security forces while trying to cover violent incidents.