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The American Way: Spreading Democracy to Afghanistan, One Journalist's Arrest at a Time

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By Dave Lindorff

US-led forces in Afghanistan sure did a bang-up job this week at promoting the concept of Western "democracy."

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The International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and the puppet intelligence agency of the Afghan government, between them, arrested and held three journalists. Rahmatullah Nekzad, a freelance reporter for Al Jazeera and the Associated Press, Mohammed Nader, a staff correspondent and cameraman for Al Jazeera, and Hojatullah Mojadadi, an Afghan local radio station manager, were all held without charge for the "crime" of allegedly having developed contacts with the Taliban. Nekzada and Nader were held by US forces for three days. Mojadadi was held by Afghan authorities for six days.

The three were finally released thanks to international pressure and following demands for the release of the two NATO-held journalists made by Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

The US military was upset with the fact that AP and Al Jazeera stringer Nekzad had developed contacts with Taliban forces. Actually, in the initial press announcement from NATO forces, they said that he was a "suspected Taliban media and propaganda facilitator, who participated in filming election attacks." That is to say, he managed to get over to the "other side" in a guerrilla war, to let the outside world see what is going on in Afghanistan. Nader was accused of propagandizing for the Taliban.

Explaining their detention of the two men, the ISAF said, "The insurgents use propaganda, often delivered through news organizations, as a way to influence and, in many cases, intimidate the Afghan population. Coalition and Afghan forces have a responsibility to interdict the activities of these insurgent propaganda networks."

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Afghan government sources gave no explanation for the detention of radio station manager Mojadadi, and eventually all three men were released with no charges even filed against them.

The timing of these arrests--right in the midst of the country's highly touted but thoroughly corrupt legislative election, which the Taliban were seeking to disrupt--makes it clear what the US was really up to: preventing honest coverage of the whole sham, which is largely for US domestic consumption to make it look like all the money and blood is accomplishing something.

This is, of course, not the first time that US forces or US-led forces have arrested journalists in Afghanistan. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, a number of journalists have been arrested or detained in Afghanistan over the course of the nine-year war. Some have been quickly released, but others have suffered grim fates which are surely meant to send a message to other journalists in the country. Jawed Ahmad, a correspondent for Canada's CTV, was held by the US in the harsh and mysterious confines of the prison at Bagram Airbase for 11 months, only to be released finally without charge. Sami al-Haz, another Al Jazeera correspondent, was detained after being picked up crossing the border from Pakistan into Afghanistan in December 2001, and was held for six years as a US prisoner without charge in Guantanamo, before also being released without charge (he was later murdered in an as yet unsolved drive-by shooting)...

For the rest of this article by DAVE LINDORFF in ThisCantBeHappening!, the new journalist-run online newspaper, please go to: ThisCantBeHappening!

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Dave Lindorff is a founding member of the collectively-owned, journalist-run online newspaper www.thiscantbehappening.net. He is a columnist for Counterpunch, is author of several recent books ("This Can't Be Happening! Resisting the (more...)
 

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