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Afghan Presidential Contender Accused of Mistreating Journalists


Daud Sultanzoi.
Afghan authorities are investigating a presidential candidate over allegations that he used force and threats against journalists when an interview about his presidential ambitions turned personal.

Daud Sultanzoi for mistreating a reporter and a cameraman with Kabul News TV during an interview about his presidential ambitions earlier this month.

Abdul Sattar Saadat, head of the Afghan Electoral Complaints Commission, told Radio Free Afghanistan that a video posted on Facebook appears to show Daud Sultanzoi forcing Kabul News TV anchor Malik Aasem and cameraman Harun Sikandary to hand him the tape of an interview they had recorded at his Kabul home on February 6.

In the video, Sultanzoi tries to wrest the tape from the journalists, accusing them of invading his privacy. He ignores the journalists’ insistence that the interview was conducted at Sultanzoi’s request and that there is "law" in Afghanistan. Sultanzoi says he consented to the interview on the condition that no questions would be asked about his private life and adds, "The government’s law is not implemented inside my house."

Kabul News TV filed a complaint about the incident, claiming that Sultanzoi confiscated the tape and returned it only after deleting the interview. The network also claims that he detained the journalists in his house for three hours.

On February 15 the Complaints Commission recommended that the Afghan Attorney General's office investigate the incident.

Describing the incident to Radio Free Afghanistan, Aasem recalled, "Towards the end of the interview I asked a question, 'keeping in view the grand promises you have made and your resolve to serve the people of Afghanistan after being elected, why is your own family still not living inside Afghanistan?’ Sultanzoi was upset by this question and told me that I was not allowed to probe his private life," Aasem said, adding that Sultanzoi then walked out of the interview in a rage and confiscated the recording.

Speaking to Radio Free Afghanistan Sultanzoi said that he stopped the interview because the journalist asked him where his family and wife lived. "I told him that the freedom of speech also has responsibilities and I do not want to continue this interview," he said.

"After that they promised me that they will delete it from their recording tape," he added. "While they were deleting the interview, they secretly recorded our conversations and posted it onto the Facebook without my permission."

Abdul Mujeeb Khalwatgar, the executive director of Nai, a media advocacy group in Afghanistan that issued a press release on the incident last week (http://nai.org.af/dr/), told Radio Free Afghanistan that Sultanzoi resorted to threats and insults, and that his actions defied "all rules and regulations of journalism."

"Nai believes that freedom of expression becomes meaningful when words are said after lots of contemplation and thinking," Khalwatgar said. "A speaker or interviewee does not have the right to change or delete an interview to prevent it from being disseminated. This is considered censorship and according to the Afghan media law, censorship by an individual is considered a violation."

The Afghanistan Journalists Center also condemned the incident and urged the Afghan Election Complaint Commission to "address the issue seriously."

The Afghanistan Independent Journalists Association commented that the incident is a sign of growing violence against journalists in the country.

Sultanzoi, 63, previously worked as a commercial airline pilot in the United States. He became an Afghan lawmaker after winning a seat in the Wolesi Jira, Parliament’s lower house, in 2005. He also hosted a popular Afghan TV show.

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