Afghan intelligence officials have instructed local and foreign media to stop reporting live from the scene of terrorist attacks in the country, citing security concerns, according to news reports.

National Directorate of Security spokesman Said Ansari arranged “friendly meetings” with local and international news outlets, one by one, to order them to no longer report live on terrorist attacks anywhere in the country.  The order has not yet appeared in writing. However Ansari insisted that there was legal grounding in the order, citing Article 7 of the Internal Security Law of Afghanistan, which dates to the pre-Taliban Communist era.

“Live coverage does not benefit the government, but benefits the enemies of Afghanistan,” Ansari told journalists on Monday 1 March.

The order follows coverage of suicide attacks in central Kabul on Friday 5 February.

Under the order, journalists may not approach or report from the scene of such attacks until the initial investigation and government operations have finished and permission has been granted. After that, Ansari said, the media would be informed through a press conference about the incident.  Ansari also said that this order was also for the protection of journalists, who might be injured if the scene was not completely secured.

Local and foreign media have criticised the move.

Speaking to IPI on Tuesday, IPI member Martin Huckerby called the order “nonsense”.

A former reporter and news editor at The Times, London, Huckerby was also foreign news editor of The Observer during the era of the collapse of Soviet communism. For more than a decade now, he has trained journalists and advised news organizations across the globe. He has just returned from training local reporters in Afghanistan.

“The government feels embattled and is under great pressure,” he said. “It realises that hearts and minds matter.

“The government gets upset by bad publicity and thinks that enforcing bans will solve its problems.  I don’t think that the Afghan media will take this lying down, but the international media will not take any notice at all.

“We will only see when another attack happens in Kabul, but they can’t expect police to turn on the media,” he added.

Afghan officials have issued similar bans before. During the polling hours in the 20 August presidential election, journalists were ordered not to broadcast or report on any incidents of violence, but the order was not strictly enforced.

IPI Press Freedom Manager Anthony Mills said: “We are concerned at the Afghan government’s apparent attempts to control reporting. We believe that, particularly in a time of conflict, the Afghan people – and the wider world – are best served by having access to the free and immediate flow of information.”