Afghan satire 'Kabul Taxi' angers spies, journalists summoned for questioning

Afghan satire 'Kabul Taxi' angers spies, journalists summoned for questioning

August 25, 2015

Kabul: Aug 25 The biting political satire of a Facebook page called Kabul Taxi has got under the skin of Afghanistan's spy agency - enough so that it summoned the two journalists it suspects of being behind it for a two-hour grilling.

According to the Reuters, Kabul Taxi's acerbic take on the foibles of the Afghan government, corrupt officials and bureaucrats has made it the talk of the capital in the three months since it was launched and a leader in a burgeoning scene of online satire sites.

The latest target was Haneef Atmar, the powerful National Security Council adviser to President Ashraf Ghani, who Kabul Taxi mocked over the number of his advisers and their activities.

Atmar, however, did not find this funny.

The National Directorate of Security, the intelligence agency that effectively reports to Atmar, hauled in two reporters it suspected to be behind Kabul Taxi.

The National Security Council (NSC) issued a statement on Monday, saying Kabul Taxi had leaked government secrets by naming some NSC staff, presenting what it deemed a "serious security risk" to their lives.

"The NSC office with respect to freedom of expression and people's access to information, has asked concerned authorities to act against the offenders of this case to prevent further leaks of secrets in the security sector," the statement added.

Afghanistan Journalists Center defended Kabul Taxi, saying the staff names were already published on the NSC's own Facebook page along with their photos.

One Kabul Taxi follower responded with a dark joke about the worsening security situation in Kabul, where a recent truck bomb and other attacks have caused public outrage.

"The National Security Council and intelligence agency ... should not be chasing the Kabul Taxi driver, they should be chasing the truck bombers who massacre people."

Joking apart, the pressure put on the satirists has raised concerns among activists about press freedoms. Afghanistan Journalists Center (AFJC) condemned the interrogations and urged the government to respect freedom of expression.

AFJC believes that the national security advisor Hanif Atmar is making clear excuses regarding the Security Council’s intervention by summoning the journalists and satirical reports can never create problems for the government.

This comes as the national Security Council issued a statement criticizing the social media page for disclosing information regarding the council, insisting that disclosing such information could pose serious threats to the personnel of the council.