Media Commission warns state media on election coverage

2 Aug 2009

Media Commission warns state media on election coverage

2 August 2009 - The Media Commission today, once again, warned the state media, in particular, Radio Television Afghanistan (RTA) for its biased reportage, favouring incumbent President and candidate Hamid Karzai.


With elections just three weeks away, the media monitoring body released its fourth weekly report at a press conference in Kabul.

Addressing the media, Sidiqullah Tauhidi, the Media Commission Chairman, announced the body has received eight complaints about bias in the State media's coverage of the presidential election campaign, seven of which were raised by his opponent Dr Abdullah Abdullah.

The Commission confirmed they had ruled the complaints as "valid", and issued a judgment requiring the State media to take corrective action as required by the code of conduct.

"We now call on the RTA to comply forthwith. The current election affects every person in Afghanistan. The RTA and other State media belong to all the people of our country, whom the RTA should serve," pressed Mr Tauhidi.

The Media Commission is, however, fast losing patience. Besides previous reports outlining the RTA's failure to follow guidelines, the Commission has issued three warning letters, and held a number of meetings with the Minister of Information and senior RTA officials, including, Zia Burma, who allegedly threatened to teach the commission a lesson.

"There will be action taken. That will be announced soon. The Commission will be meeting to decide what to do (next). What the Media Commission wants is compliance, and we hope, after this latest release of information, that they will comply," said John Matisonn, Media Commission advisor.

According to a break up of RTA news bulletins in the reporting period between 6 to 28 July, President Karzai dominated 67 per cent of the coverage, followed by independent candidate Dr Abdullah Abdullah, who received less than 10 per cent of air time, and Sayyid Jalal Karim at three per cent.

The Media Commission also released comprehensive data on election coverage by private-owned radio and TV channels.

Salam Watandar, for example, devoted around 20 per cent of coverage to, both, Karzai and Abdullah during news bulletins in the reporting period; Kabul's Radio Killid featured Karzai 72 per cent of the time in its news bulletins, as opposed to another prominent independent candidate, Dr Ashraf Ghani, who got less than two percent of coverage.

The station, however, allotted equal airtime to Karzai and some lesser-known candidates during its non-news bulletin programmes.

"The news coverage by private TV stations, too, hasn't been great. There are one or two stations which have been fair – in particular Ariana. But others have shown quite extreme bias. In a majority of cases (they have favoured) Mr Karzai, but in one case Dr Abdullah," explained Mr Matisonn.

The next Media Commission Report will be released on Sunday 9 August.

By Aditya Mehta, UNAMA



Media Commission