Omar Zakhilwal, former ambassador of Afghanistan to Islamabad, criticized what he called the “bias” of the state-owned national television–RTA–for not airing his interview in which, according to him, he criticized the consultative Loya Jirga, the grand assembly.
The interview was aired live on RTA’s social media, but, according to Zakhilwal, it was deleted afterward.
The Loya Jirga started on Friday and will end on Sunday, and at least 3,200 delegates from around the country have attended, according to its organizers. The Jirga will decide on the release of 400 Taliban prisoners.
Zakhilwal said RTA’s decision shows that it is not acting as a national institution, but rather a personal one.
“The national TV –as indicated by its name–belongs to the whole nation, it does not belong to the Presidential Palace or to the president, or a minister,” Zakhilwal said.
“The media’s duty is to portray various views (of people) especially on national issues like peace.”
The media outlets were not allowed to enter the Jirga hall on the first day, but they were provided the feed from the RTA from the Intercontinental Hotel, which is located near the Jirga venue.
The RTA officials did not comment, but the access to information commission called it a violation of freedom of speech.
The commission’s director, Ainuddin Bahaduri, said no institution should censor or impose limitations on the freedom of speech.
“Censorship is not acceptable at all. In fact, it is a limitation of freedom of speech,” Bahaduri said.
“There are many cases in which (RTA) aired government-related issues and programs that that are in favor of the government,” said Haroon Stanekzai, a lawyer.
This comes as Fariha Isar, a civil society activist, claims that some people close to President Ghani were trying to prevent him from asking a question to the president during an RTA interview with Ghani earlier in July.