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Afghanistan 5 March 2007

US troops threaten and censor journalists after killing of civilians

Reporters Without Borders called for an explanation from the US Army for threats and censorship against Afghan journalists, two of them working for the Associated Press (AP), while covering civilian deaths in shooting by US special forces on the road between Kabul and Jalalabad in the east.

“The Afghan investigative commission set up by President Hamid Karzai after this incident, should urgently shed light on what happened near Jalalabad, in particular the acts of censorship by the US Army,” the worldwide press freedom organisation said.

“If the US soldiers had nothing to hide why have they done everything to prevent the press from covering this blunder?” it asked.

US marines on 4 March killed a score of civilians and injured around 30 others along the road after they came under an attack from a suicide bomber in which several people died, east of Jalalabad in Nangarhar province, eastern Afghanistan.

Half an hour later, a group of journalists, including a photographer and freelance cameraman working for AP and reporters for Afghanistan’s Ariana TV and Tolo TV, arrived at the scene.

A US soldier, accompanied by an Afghan interpreter, approached the journalists and told them to stop taking photos and footage of a vehicle in which three civilians had been killed. He then seized their equipment and deleted all their shots. The journalists, who were properly accredited, asked another officer for permission to film which was granted.

But the first soldier once again prevented them from working and again wiped their shots. Then he threatened reprisals if any footage was broadcast.

Journalists Rahmat Gul, Khanwali Kamran and Taqiullah Taqi confirmed that they had been threatened and the Associated Press said that it would lodge a complaint with the US Army.

The American military said that soldiers had returned fire after coming under attack, but did not comment on the accusations made by the journalists.

Afghan and foreign journalists are frequently prevented from filming the activities of the soldiers of the international coalition in Afghanistan.




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