Media outlets to help quell political crisis

KABUL (Pajhwok): Media and pro-democracy groups have asked all news organisations to avoid releasing reports and analysis that could exacerbate tensions created by electoral fraud allegations.
Signs of a political crisis emerged after presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah claimed “industrial-scale” fraud had been committed in favour of his rival Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai.
Abdullah, who topped the previous round of presidential election on April 5, has halted cooperation with the two electoral bodies to press for his demands, including an investigation into fraud incidents by a UN team and the removal of a senior Independent Election Commission official.
He had called for an immediate halt to the vote-tallying process, saying in some provinces votes cast outnumbered eligible voters and ballot boxes were stuffed the day before the election.
To discuss the situation and outline their future course of action, a number of representatives of media houses and civil society groups attended a two-day gathering organised by the Committee to Protect Afghan Journalists in cooperation with NAI.
The gathering decided media outlets should adhere to journalistic norms and avoid publishing reports which could further exacerbate the situation.
At the end of the gathering, the Afghanistan National Journalists Union (ANJU) issued a statement that said the gathering discussed how to cope with tensions arising from electoral fraud allegations.
The gathering was attended by representatives of Shamshad, 1TV, Tolo, Lemar, Aina and Meetra TV channels and Killid and Amozgar radios, Pajhwok Afghan News, Mandgar, 8am, Arman-i-Mili dailies and Kherad weekly.
At the gathering, the representatives said journalists could create crisis and could also quell it if they worked in professional manner.
“In the ongoing situation, media outlets and journalists should avoid fueling differences and tension on ethnic, tribal, political, regional and religious lines and they should only concentrate on access to information,” the ANJU statement said. It added media outlets should behave in a fair way to help reduce political tension.
At the two-day gathering, the participants agreed they would avoid inviting analysts deemed fueling political tension.
Talk shows on TV screen and media reports should discussed problems and their solutions and no expressions that could confuse the masses, the statement said.
It said the participants also agreed to not publish unconfirmed reports, figures and rumours attributed to a candidate without quoting credible sources.
The media houses and reporters were encouraged to unearth rigging, fraud and other unfair means used during the runoff election with credible documents in support.
Decisions made at the gathering would be shared with the IEC’s Election Media Commission, presidential spokespersons, UNAMA, presidential election runners’ campaign offices in a joint meeting to attract their support, the ANJU statement said.
Meanwhile, the Afghanistan Democracy Watch in a statement proposed the creation of a team comprising of influential individuals who stayed neutral during the election process to find a solution to the crisis.
The team should be tasked with creating understanding between the two candidates and the electoral commissions before the election results were announced.
The Afghanistan Democracy Watch said the proposed team should come up with fruitful suggestions on the issue of fake and genuine votes in a way to be acceptable to both the runners.
“Taking into consideration of the recent developments, the country seems not far from plunging into a deep political crisis with unpredictable consequences.”
The group said the electoral commissions were passing through a critical situation and distrusted by one of presidential candidates further made it difficult to separate fake votes.
The Afghanistan Democracy Watch asked President Karzai, the candidates, the electoral bodies and the international community to make efforts at preventing the political crisis from deepening.

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