Freedom of expression at risk in Afghanistan

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This article was originally published on The Khaama Press News Agency.

Dozens of social media users have been introduced to Afghanistan’s General Attorney office for the charges of writing comments said to be insulting on Ghani’s running mate’s Facebook posts, an official said.

The Afghanistan Green Trend, led by Amrullah Saleh, a running mate to Mohammad Ashraf Ghani in the 2019 Presidential elections, has introduced at least 39 people to the General Attorney office to be investigated for the insulting Facebook comments, Jamshid Rasuli, a spokesperson to General Attorney office said.

The organization has complained against all those who have written insulting comments or criticism beneath Amrullah Saleh’s Facebook posts, Rasuli added.

“Our colleagues at the General Attorney office have summoned all those against whom the Afghanistan Green Trend has filed complaints”, said Rasuli.

In the complaints letter sent by the Afghanistan Green Trend, 39 people have been accused of writing offensive and insulting words on social media in reference to Amrullah Saleh, Jamshid Rasuli further added.

According to Afghanistan’s law, insulting and mistreating is a crime, he said.

According to Rasuli, some of the suspects are government employees who work for the Interior, Defence, Economy, and Higher Education Ministries.

This comes as Amrullah Saleh has said in another Facebook post that he has not complained, but his organization has done it for the protection of its privacy and its members’ security.

Saleh was Ghani’s running mate as the First Vice-President candidate in 2019 Presidential elections.

Media Watch, Experts & Analysts Reactions

Nai, Supporting Open Media in Afghanistan published a statement criticizing the introduction of the Facebook commenters to the Attorney General Office and said any complaints against media should be referred to Media Offense and Complaints Commission rather than referring them to judicial authorities.

We believe that freedom of expression is the basic right of every Afghan citizen graned by the existing laws and naturally criticizing actions and other performances are guaranteed by this part of laws, Nai said in a statement.

“Even if the criticism is not precepted positively by those faced with, he/ she should follow a case through Media Offense and Complaints Commission”, the statement added.

According to the law, the Attorney General office must refer the complaints to Media Offense and Complaints Commission to be assessed, Nai said in a statement.

Mujib Khelvatgar, the CEO of Nai, Supporting Open Media in Afghanistan said introducing people to the General Attorney office by the President or his deputy Saleh is illegal and in contrast to the law and the judicial institutions must take this into consideration.

Another media expert, Seddiqullah Tawhidi said there is no place for the tyranny and despotism in Afghanistan, in case of any criticism or accusations, it should be processed through legal trends, not through using power or political positions.