Afghan president lifts ban on expelled US reporter

  • AFP, Kabul
  • Updated: Oct 05, 2014 21:26 IST

A New York Times reporter expelled from Afghanistan and accused of having links to spy agencies will be allowed to return, newly-inaugurated President Ashraf Ghani said on Sunday, vowing to defend press freedom.

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.

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.

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".

Rosenberg's article said that senior officials were discussing forming an "interim government" to end the election stand-off -- a move that would have rocked UN-led attempts to foster democracy in Afghanistan.

The election crisis was finally solved when Ghani was declared the winner and he agreed to power-sharing deal with his former poll rival Abdullah Abdullah, who took the new role of "chief executive".

Ghani, who was sworn in last Monday, has also reversed another official decision since coming to power by signing a long-delayed deal to allow 10,000 US troops to stay in Afghanistan into next year.

All media were severely restricted under the Taliban's 1996-2001 rule, but newspapers, TV stations and websites have proliferated in the last decade.

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