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Afghan Government Investigates Ads Supporting US Security Deal

The Afghan government has ordered an investigation into funding for a television ad campaign urging the country's president to sign a security pact with the United States.

The Attorney General's office says it has started investigating the ads, which have been running on some privately owned television stations for the past few weeks.

Washington wants Kabul to sign the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) as early as possible, but Afghan President Hamid Karzai has yet to do so. The deal would determine the number and role of American troops in the country after this year.

The Afghan government accuses some media outlets of misinterpreting the demands of a Loya Jirga (Grand Council) that approved the deal and asked Mr. Karzai to sign it.

The head of the Afghan Government Media and Information Center, Sefatullah Safi, told VOA's Pashto service that people should know who is pushing for the BSA.

"In the view of media freedom and freedom of expression, media outlets can broadcast commercial advertisements and peoples' opinions, but in sensitive issues, every commercial should have an explicit source, so that Afghan people can understand who is giving them that particular message"

Safi also said the government is including the Loya Jirga's advice as it negotiates with the U.S.

The head of the Afghanistan Independent Journalists Association (AIJA), Rahimullah Samandar, agrees that the funding for TV ads on political issues should be known.

(ACT 2, Samandar, AIJA)

"No media should air any messages on important national issues without clearly identifying the source. Unfortunately some outlets are controlled by powerful and political groups that could be used by anyone."

Mr. Karzai says the BSA should be signed by the winner of Afghainstan's April presidential election.

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