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Foolish and damaging – Karzai thinks of banning analytical thinktank

November 6, 2012

hmmm…democracy, censorship…censorship, democracy…

I’ve just seen a couple of reports suggesting that the Afghan government is toying with the idea of banning the International Crisis Group for its critical analysis of Karzai and the country’s prospects:

Christian Science Monitor:  “…this time, Mr. Karzai is unhappy about the International Crisis Group, probably the world’s leading think tank when it comes to unbiased, factual reporting on conflict…Earlier today, a Karzai spokesman said the government was investigating the ICG for possible legal action, complaining that “the ICG reports and activities have been politically motivated” and that “it is detrimental to Afghanistan’s national interests and no country will allow such activities by a foreign organisation.”
and this

“BRUSSELS — NATO, whose troops are fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan, said Monday that Kabul should not interfere with the work of the ICG think tank after a critical report by the analysts sparked government anger.  NATO head Anders Fogh Rasmussen said the Brussels-based International Crisis Group has “the right to express its views,” adding democracy benefits from open debate.  An analysis by the ICG last month said the Afghan government could collapse after the withdrawal of NATO troops in 2014, particularly if presidential elections that year proved fraudulent.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s senior spokesman Aimal Faizi charged Monday that the ICG’s “reports and activities have been politically motivated. The government is now in the process of assessing the ICG’s operations in the country.

“It is detrimental to Afghanistan’s national interests and no country will allow such activities by a foreign organisation,” he said.

Foreign ministry spokesman Janan Mosazai added that Kabul “will take an appropriate decision about its future work based on this assessment.”

In many ways this is unfinished business from when the ICG paper came out.  Both the Taliban and the Afghan government came out to criticise.  But this is just really disappointing – made more so because I no longer find it particularly surprising.  Earlier I was criticising the Taliban for their naive and immature series of denials and denouncements and now this.   It is one thing to stand up for your own country’s sovereignty (and by happy coincidence, it is a quick, easy and cheap way of generating popular support), but quite another to start coming over all “tin pot dictator”.  As with Ismail Khan’s sabre-rattling, I’m reasonably hopeful that the issue will go away as calmer heads take Karzai to one side in private and say words to the effect of: “look, this is a really poor idea”.

Come on guys – have you learnt nothing about the way modern media works?  I tend to expect this from the Taliban – what about a mature response…?

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