Hours after a statement was issued by 30 leading media outlets in Afghanistan over limitations in access to information, President Ghani’s adviser Waheed Omer and Palace spokesman Sediq Sediqqi defended the government’s record in providing information to media and supporting a free press.
Omer, who is head the Office of Public and Strategic Affairs at the Presidential Palace, provided numbers about instances in which the government has provided information to the media about certain cases.
He said that in the past six months, there were 10,378 cases in which the Presidential Palace provided information to the media through its four spokesmen.
In that time, he said, the president’s spokesman Sediq Sediqqi had “780 telephone conversations with the media, attended 54 TV shows, nine press conferences, and answered questions on camera 180 times.”
The statement from the Afghan media begins by saying: “Afghanistan has gone backwards when it comes to access to information in recent years. We are deeply concerned about the deterioration of access to government-related information in Afghanistan.”
Omer asked for clarification from the protesting media outlets about what they meant by “recent years?”
“We welcome the statement by the media, and we are committed to providing information to them in a timely way, but we ask them to make their problems clear. When were they limited, was it in the last five years, three years or two years?” Omer asked.
He said that there are up to 4,000 media outlets in the country and that of this large number, only thirty have signed today’s statement, which means that a large number of media outlets are satisfied with the current situation of access to information. Further, Omer said that from the 30 media outlets that signed the statement, seven of them are provincial news agencies, and it seems they have problems with their local government – not the central government in Kabul.
Omer said that they are ready to visit each media outlet and discuss the complaints.
“What we have in the freedom of media is a collective achievement and its maintenance is a collective responsibility,” he concluded.
Only two reporters asked questions in the press conference, but said they are ready to ask dozens of questions regarding this.
When asked about some certain cases, including the case related to sexual abuse allegations against First Vice President Abdul Rashid Dostum, and an Afghan forces operation on a former Mujahideen commander Amer Abdul Sattar, President spokesman Sediq Sediqqi said there are some major cases that must remain classified.
In response to why the President is not holding press conferences, Sediqqi said the president held a press conference in Davos, Switzerland recently.